National Guard Patrols Nuke
Plants With Unloaded Weapons! wire services

From Scott D. Portzline
Jeff - Here is confirmation of what I stated on your program months ago...
National Guard troops are patrolling Three Mile Island and Pennsylvania's other operating nuclear power plants with unloaded weapons, giving residents a false sense of security and leaving troops unprotected, a state lawmaker said yesterday.
"That's stupid; that's really dumb," said Middletown Mayor Robert G. Reid, whose borough is in the shadow of the TMI cooling towers.

"They look awesome standing there with their M-16s and now you find out the weapons aren't loaded. Well, they're just like civilians," Reid said.

While government officials would not confirm whether or not the Guard members' M-16s were loaded, House Minority Whip Mike Veon, D-Beaver, said a number of troops have complained that they were only allowed to carry bullets in belt clips and were not armed with artillery.

Veon, whose Beaver County district includes a power plant, said he since has lobbied Gov. Mark S. Schweiker and state military brass, without success, to allow the troops to carry loaded guns. He also has sought to outfit troops with surface-to-air missiles that could shoot down an airplane heading for a nuclear power plant.

"The time it would take to [load a weapon] is precious seconds when you're facing a terrorist or a criminal or an attack, and that's common sense, let alone basic principles of military training and basic principles of police work," Veon said.

TMI officials were aware that National Guard troops' weapons were unloaded, said company spokesman Ralph DeSantis. But, he added, the National Guard troops and state police are not the nuclear power plant's main security.

"The National Guard is a backup to our security guards," DeSantis said, adding that TMI security guards carry loaded weapons. "Our officers have the primary security. The National Guard and state police are backup to TMI's own security force."

Guard members, who do not have powers of arrest, said last week that they had been banned from carrying loaded pistols while on patrol at Pennsylvania airports following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Instead, the soldiers carried ammunition on their belts.

Reid said he believes National Guard troops should be armed with loaded weapons.

"The terrorists are not coming with empty weapons; they're coming shooting." he said. "The terrorists will have the upper hand."

In New York, Guard members at airports also were not allowed to carry loaded weapons. Guard members in other states, such as Florida, however, carried loaded M-16s at airports, but without a bullet in the firing chamber.

Guard spokesman John Maietta said he would not discuss the reasons behind the troops' specific arming orders, but said such orders are "arrived at after exhaustive analysis of the threat to our soldiers and the public and also an analysis of the mission we're being asked to carry out."

Dave Hixson, a spokesman for Schweiker, said that "if the threat assessment changes, then there may be changes in the rules of engagement and the overall security posture at the plants."

Officials declined to say how many Guard members are deployed to nuclear power plants.

The troops are supporting armed units of state police and private security officers patrolling the plants.

Still, keeping the troops from carrying loaded weapons puts Pennsylvania behind some states in nuclear power plant security, said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst for the Lexington Institute policy think tank in Arlington, Va.

"I think it's scandalous that the National Guard would be deployed to defend a sensitive facility without weapons and artillery," Thompson said. "It just shows how half-baked our plans of national security are."

About 160 National Guard soldiers left their stations at 16 commercial airports in Pennsylvania last month after nearly eight months of duty.

Troops and state police were deployed to nuclear plants in November and are to stay through Dec. 31.


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