WASHINGTON -- A Pentagon plan to restructure the Army National Guard has sparked bipartisan outcries in Congress even before President Bush's formal proposal, showing the clout of a force that draws members from communities across the United States.
The lawmakers' objections also reflected the hurdles facing the administration as it seeks to persuade Congress to accept any military changes that might hurt the people back home.
Bush will ask Congress tomorrow to give the Pentagon $439.3 billion, excluding the costs of fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for the budget year that begins Oct. 1. The plan will include about $5.25 billion to pay for the current numbers of Army National Guard forces, but not the higher level that Congress has authorized and that legislators say is needed in wartime.
Additionally, the Pentagon wants to shift some National Guard brigades from combat roles to support units.
''I don't see how in the world the Guard meets its mission," said Representative Robin Hayes, Republican of North Carolina. Added Representative John P. Murtha, Democrat of Pennsylvania: ''You can mark my words. They're not going to cut the National Guard."
His point is that legislators will not allow it, even though Congress is controlled by Bush's own Republican Party. In fact, a bipartisan group of 75 senators said in a letter Thursday to the president that they ''strongly oppose these proposals."
From the Capitol to state houses, Republicans and Democrats are making the argument that the country's ability to defend itself would suffer under the Pentagon's plan, given reservists' major roles in Iraq and in the hurricane recovery.
The restructuring also will run into this political reality: Lawmakers are fiercely protective of citizen-soldier units that bring jobs and pride to their hometowns.
Fights over other Pentagon proposals are brewing and could prove a tough sell for Bush, especially because budget pressure from the wars, hurricane recovery, and federal deficits is forcing the military to live with smaller spending increases than it might like.
Legislators from the Northeast, home to a large portion of the shipbuilding industry, are sure to argue that the Navy must build more vessels than planned to ensure continued US domination of the seas.
Ohio, Massachusetts, and Indiana lawmakers are lobbying to retain money for an alternative engine for the Joint Strike Fighter, a next-generation combat plane. Scrapping the program, as the Pentagon wants, would affect plants in those states.
Additionally, lawmakers in North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming are expected to fight Pentagon plans to reduce the US nuclear missile stockpile by 10 percent, starting in 2007. The country's 500 Minuteman III missiles are at bases in those states.
But it is the Guard proposal that has caused the most political consternation.
The Pentagon wants to pay for about 333,000 citizen soldiers, the current total, rather than the 350,000 Congress has authorized. The Army Reserve force of 188,000 would be paid for instead of the 205,000 benchmark approved by Congress.
In addition, six of the 34 current Guard combat brigades would take on support roles.
Military officials say the changes will result in a more capable Army. Those assurances do not appear to have swayed lawmakers.
Governors control National Guard units unless the president mobilizes them for federal duty. Bush did that after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001; since then, the Guard has played a large role in Iraq.
The National Governors Association wrote Bush on Friday opposing any plans to reduce National Guard forces. The state leaders said the National Guard is ''a cost-effective, capable combat force in the war on terror and an essential state partner in responding to domestic disasters and emergencies."
For now, Representative John M. McHugh, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's military personnel panel, is withholding judgment. ''I promised we'd listen," said McHugh, Republican of New York.
The Senate has taken a more forceful approach.
Senators Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, and Lindsey O. Graham, Republican of South Carolina, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, sponsored legislation calling for the Pentagon to consult with Congress and governors on any proposed changes to the National Guard force and its structure.
As of Friday, 54 lawmakers had signed on, including the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, and the minority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada.