Arizona Senate Bans Deployment Of National Guard Without Congressional Declaration Of War

February 22, 2024

By Corinne Murdock |

On Monday, the Arizona Senate passed legislation prohibiting the deployment of the Arizona National Guard absent a declaration of war from Congress. 

The bill, “Defend the Guard Act” sponsored by State Sen. Wendy Rogers (R-LD07), passed along partisan lines. The legislation restricts the Arizona National Guard from being released into active duty combat unless Congress passes an official declaration of war or undertakes official action pursuant to Article I, Section 8, Clause 15 of the Constitution. 

“Do not send our Arizona National Guard to a war zone, unless the United States Congress has declared war!” stated Rogers. 

The legislation defined “armed duty combat” to not only include participation in an armed conflict, but performing a hazardous service relating to an armed conflict in a foreign state and performing a duty through an instrumentality of war. 

Rogers previously carried the bill successfully through the Senate last year, but it didn’t receive a final vote in the House. 

Rogers’ bill advances just weeks after the drone strike tragedy in the Middle East that injured 40 Arizona National Guardsmen and claimed the lives of three service members from Georgia.

However, the bill received opposition from Arizona National Guard leadership.

During the committee hearing of the bill last month, Brigadier General John Conley, Director of Administrative Services for the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, expressed concern that the bill would cause the federal government to effectively end the guard by cutting off federal funding; removing their forestructure, including all their aircraft, vehicles, and equipment; and, dissolving their forces of 8,000 guardsmen. 

“If this bill passes, it will be sending a signal to the active duty, and to the Department of Defense, that the Arizona National Guard is unwilling and unable to go overseas and perform overseas missions,” said Conley. “Once we say we can’t perform the mission or won’t perform the mission, then the president has no recourse but to take that forestructure away from us.”

Due to the effective end to the state’s guard, Conley said that the state itself would be less safe: there would be no helicopter assistance for law enforcement along the border, and no disaster mitigation through fire and flood assistance. Conley said that it cost $400 a day, alone, to put one guardsman on the border. 

Conley further stated that the law would be unenforceable, and that it wouldn’t have prevented the Middle East drone strike tragedy.

Sen. Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli (R-LD30) responded that Conley’s warning of the federal government’s imminent response to the legislation proved the need for the legislation. Borrelli said that it was the federal government’s poor decision-making that led to their total party support of the bill: all GOP colleagues cosponsored the legislation. 

“The federal government chooses to disarm the state of Arizona, that should be very telling. And that kind of tyranny should not be stood for, because that’s exactly what’s going on right now,” said Borrelli. “We’re putting our troops in harm’s way with our federal government and leadership — lack of leadership for that matter — they’re leaving our troops vulnerable. I’m sorry, I just can’t comprehend the lack of leadership and concern for our troops the last few years.” 

Conley agreed that federal overreach was an issue. However, he emphasized that the Arizona National Guard was both a state and federal entity. Conley said that means that the guardsmen have no choice but to be mobilized when called upon by the federal government.

Rather than accomplishing protections for state guardsmen, Conley said that the bill would leave thousands of guardsmen out of jobs, healthcare, and pensions, and would feed into a resource-hungry Department of Defense.

“If we do that we are walking into a trap, unknowingly, that the active component is waiting, they cannot wait for it to happen, they want that forestructure,” said Conley.

Rogers countered that this bill was the difficult decision necessary to take back Arizona’s state rights. She said that Conley’s concerns further proved her point that Arizona needed to have greater control over its guard, rather than its current state of complete control under the whims of the federal government. 

“What’s the difference?” asked Rogers. “This is a state’s rights situation. And we, as Arizona, need to take the first step to recovering the rights to our own National Guard.”

Conley said that the federal government had full authority over the guard because it owns the “lion’s share” of the equipment and salaries. Rogers disagreed, saying that their most dedicated guardsmen would stick with the state for the right cause. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

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