WASHINGTON -- In support of the National Defense Strategy, the National Guard's focus remains on the war fight, defending and securing the homeland, and building enduring partnerships, the chief of the National Guard Bureau said on Capitol Hill today.

"The Guard is tremendously appreciative for this committee's support in enabling us to accomplish these missions," Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel said during a hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on defense.

On any given day, 20,000 men and women of the National Guard work seamlessly with the Army and Air Force as part of the joint force protecting the nation's interests around the globe, he said. With about 850,000 deployments since 9/11, Guard soldiers and airmen conduct complex operations that support every geographic combatant command, Lengyel said.

"Your continued support allows us to leverage our years of combat experience to help confront current and future security challenges," the general said. "In the homeland, your investment supports on average about 8,000 Guard soldiers and airmen every day, conducting domestic and homeland security defense operations."

Guardsmen are supporting the Department of Homeland Security with its border security mission, the general said. Soldiers and airmen in the Guard's counterdrug program, in coordination with law enforcement agencies and other partners, detect, interdict, disrupt and curtail drug trafficking across the nation, and the Army National Guard ballistic missile defense battalions defend the nation against intercontinental ballistic missile threats, he added.

DISASTER AID

"On top of all this, the National Guard stands ready to respond to emergencies such as hurricanes, wildfires and flooding, as well as assist law enforcement during times of civil unrest -- missions the National Guard performs with little or no notice," Lengyel said.

In the past year, 45,000 men and women of the National Guard responded to hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria while simultaneously supporting wildland firefighters and other DoD missions across the states, he said.

The National Guard was called 255 times and served more than 1.8 million man-days responding to homeland emergencies in fiscal year 2017, saving thousands of lives, Lengyel noted. "Our presence in communities around the nation uniquely postures us to respond when our communities need us most," the general told the senators.

"National Guard success in the war fight and homeland operations is a direct result of the enduring partnership we build with international federal, state and local partners."

Through the State Partnership Program, the Guard partners with 79 nations, Lengyel said, calling it a low-cost, high-return program that builds enduring partnerships based on mutual trust and generates contributions to coalition efforts around the world.

"Our nation is currently facing an ever-evolving security challenge," he said. "I'm thankful for this committee's recognition and the support of your National Guard's role both in the homeland and abroad."