States Rights: Militia Not Rumsfelds by David Whelan David Whelan I was interested to hear recently when Governor Rendell of Pennsylvania, and U.S. Senator Rick Santorum filed a law suit against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. They argued that the base closing commission couldn’t deactivate a Pennsylvania Air National Guard fighter wing. Since it was a Pennsylvania Guard unit, it was subject to the Governor’s control, not Federal. A Federal district court in Pennsylvania agreed. Judge Padova, of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, issued the opinion on August 26, finding that the Department of Defense cannot deactivate the fighter wing (PDF). It’s an interesting discussion of Federal power and states rights, especially in relation to the National Guard. The Guard has experienced notable changes as the United States Congress tried to balance the need to get access to the state militias in time of war, to bring them into the Federal military, with the rights of the state Governors to oversee their own militias. Pennsylvania’s statutes, like other states, spell out what exactly the Governor’s powers are as commander-in-chief of the militia (51 Pa. Consolidated Statutes § 501). For anyone with the time and interest to read through the 54 page opinion, it’s an interesting discussion of how the balance was struck.