Who Controls the National Guard?

by Ed Sawicki - July 20, 2020

In late 2007, author Naomi Wolf wrote a book called “The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot” that foretold the United States descent into Fascism. Nearly 13 years later, Trump’s federal militia harassing peaceful protesters in Portland, Oregon, is making her point.

What power does Oregon governor, Kate Brown, have in protecting her constituents from Trump's militia? After all, as the governor of a state, she controls the state's National Guard. Could she call up the guard and have them protect the protesters?

She could, but Oregon's National Guard is dually-controlled by Governor Brown and Donald Trump. Which will they take orders from?

Unfortunately, because of the actions of our Congress over the years, Trump trumps Brown. In 2006, Congress passed the 2007 National Defense Authorization Act. It gave the president the authority to mobilize National Guard units within the U.S. without the consent of state governors. After the bill's passage, Naomi Wolf's book warned about the Act giving too much power to the president.

In an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! on November 28, 2007, Wolf said, “You don’t make it easier for the President to declare martial law, as we just did with the 2007 Defense Authorization Act.”

Congress tried to address this in subsequent years—in subsequent National Defense Authorization Acts—but that didn't solve the problem of a renegade president overriding a governor.

We've done a poor job of protecting our country against Fascism even though it was a major reason why we fought World War II.