National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel also said he advises against federalizing the reservist force, saying it should instead be kept under local state control.
“It’s hard to tell what the exact requirement will be, but I’m expecting tens of thousands to be used inside the states as this grows,” Lengyel told reporters on Thursday.
“I think that this could quickly blossom in the next couple of weeks as governors and states determine their needs and ways to use their National Guards.”
Over 2,000 National Guard members are currently deployed in 27 states in the fight against the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
Lengyel said he expects that number to double by the weekend, and to continue to “increase rapidly” as more test kits become available.
Lengyel said that the 450,000-strong National Guard would be most effectively used under the local command and control of state governors, the default constitutional position.
While the president has the power to federalize the National Guard, bringing it under direct military control, Lengyel said that “would not make sense in this situation.”
“Every state has a different way to deal with disasters and the National Guard is uniquely qualified and postured to act under the command and control of the governors in those states.”
Federalizing the reservist force would lose that strength, he said.
A federalized National Guard would also no longer be able to carry out law enforcement—a unique attribute available to states that would be lost on federalizing under constitutional checks against martial law.
He said that the National Guard, with its motto “always ready, always there,” is “in nearly every state territory and nearly every zip code.”
“When disaster strikes, we don’t have to mobilize from some base. We pack a lunch and we go to work, because we are already there in the communities. We live there, we can respond faster.”
The National Guard is a reservist force, part of the Navy and of the Army, which can be brought under federal control in the event of war, but is typically called on to tackle natural disasters at the state level, such as hurricanes.
Describing the CCP virus pandemic as a “historic event, unlike any we have faced in recent years,” Lengyel said it was “like having 54 separate hurricanes in every state.”
“Unlike a hurricane, we don’t know when this is going to dissipate or move out to sea.”
So far, the National Guard has been used in some states to assist with test samples, which is why the advent of more testing could see states call for more assistance.
The Guard has so far been providing medical testing, assessments, facilities, ground transportation, transport, logistics, command and control, and liaison officers, said Lengyel.
Guardsmen includes medics. But since they are drawn from the civilian population, Lengyel said enlisting their help had to be balanced against the fact that they would likely already be on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19. Other senior Pentagon spokespersons have made similar comments in recent days.
Six Guardsmen have tested positive for the CCP so far, according to Lengyel.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus as the CCP virus, because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.