President's new control over National Guard is challenged
Washington — The state of Minnesota has mounted the first legal challenge to a new federal law that denies the nation's governors their traditional control over the training and deployment of National Guard troops in their states. Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich filed suit Jan. 28 against the Defense Department, the Army, the Air Force, and the National Guard, alleging that the so-called ``Montgomery amendment'' is unconstitutional.
Sponsored by by US Rep. G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery (R) of Mississippi, the amendment was attached to the defense appropriation bill and approved last October along with the fiscal 1987 defense budget. It removes the governors' power to turn down federal requests to send National Guard units on training missions overseas, except when local emergencies intervene.
Governor Perpich's suit contends that the Montgomery amendment violates Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. That article gives governors control over training of their ``state militia,'' the 18th-century version of today's National Guard.
In December, Perpich charged that the amendment prevents governors from opposing ``a national policy of military entanglement in Central America.'' But Christine Kegler, a spokeswoman for Perpich, says he chose not to stress ``the foreign policy issue'' in the suit.
Perpich sent a letter on Feb. 3 to the attorneys general of the other 49 states asking them to join a ``friend of the court'' brief on behalf of his action. As many as 20 states may eventually back the suit, predicts John Tunheim, Minnesota's chief deputy attorney general.
Govs. Mario Cuomo of New York, Martha Layne Collins of Kentucky, and Madeline Kunin of Vermont have ``indicated interest'' in backing the complaint, Mr. Tunheim says.
Perpich has also submitted a resolution to the biannual meeting of the National Governors' Association in Washington, D.C., Feb. 22-24, seeking support for his case.
The lawsuit is the outgrowth of a nationwide protest movement against the use of Guard units in military maneuvers in Honduras. Last year the critics convinced several governors to refuse to send units of their Guards to Honduras.
``A few governors just cannot say, `I will not let my guardsmen go to train in a certain part of the world because I do not like the politics of that situation,''' Congressman Montgomery said when he submitted his amendment last August.
About 5,800 guardsmen from 23 states participated in Honduran maneuvers last year, and at least another 1,500 from 13 states and Puerto Rico are slated to travel there in 1987, says Capt. Paula Kougeas of the National Guard Bureau.
Roughly 200 Air and Army Guard troops from Illinois, Nevada, and Florida were in Honduras as of last week. While the exercises are officially designed to train US and Honduran troops, American officials have admitted that the maneuvers are also meant to intimidate the Sandinista government of neighboring Nicaragua.
In addition, National Guard Bureau officials have confirmed critics' claims that President Reagan could legally send Guard units on maneuvers in Honduras into combat against Nicaragua if he determined that Sandinista forces were invading Honduran territory.