A largely unnoticed amendment to the recently passed United States defense budget has set the stage for a legal showdown between federal and state governments. The result could ultimately hinder Washington's Central America policy. A provision in the military spending bill strips the nation's governors of their power to withhold permission for their National Guard troops to be sent abroad on peacetime training missions. A number of governors, including Toney Anaya (D) of New Mexico and Joseph Brennan (D) of Maine, are committed to supporting a legal challenge to the controversial amendment.
``In my judgment and in that of many other governors, the amendment is unconstitutional,'' said Governor Anaya, noting that Article I of the US Constitution gives governors control of training state militias.
At least two other governors, Michael Castle of Delaware (R) and Anthony Earl (D) of Wisconsin, will consider joining such a suit, although their aides said they have not made a final decision.
The amendment was introduced in August by Rep. C.V. (Sonny) Montgomery (D) of Mississippi, after several governors had responded to protests in their states against the use of Guard troops for military maneuvers in Honduras.
Governor Brennan took the lead in January when he refused a federal request to have his Army Guard participate in a road-building exercise in central Honduras. The governors of Ohio and Arizona subsequently turned down requests to send National Guard units from their states to maneuvers, and two other governors said they would not send their Guard to Honduras if they were asked.