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Wed, Apr 14, 2010

NG Officers Praise House For Opposition To Air Force 'Plane Grab'

AF Plan Could Have "Severely" Inhibited Air Guard's Capabilities

Nearly 45,000 National Guard officers are expressing their approval of a bi-partisan congressional effort to turn back an Air Force plan to take C-130 cargo planes from the Air Guard to replace aging active-component aircraft. In a letter Friday to Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, 23 members of the U.S. House of Representatives said the plan, if executed, would "severely inhibit" the Air Guard's ability to complete its wartime mission.

They also accused the Air Force officials of "trying to solve a short-term problem without looking at the long-term impact of such a decision." The lawmakers urged the Air Force to "withdraw" the scheme unless officials could provide "conclusive proof" that the plan is "the best course of action," along with "alternate plans that have been considered."

The letter comes on the heels of a March 24 letter from the Senate National Guard Caucus that condemned the plan.

"Capitol Hill sees what Guard leaders across the nation see," said retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, NGAUS president. "That is, a continuation of what appears to be a consistent trend since the 2005 BRAC to cut the Air Guard without any input from the Air Guard.

"As a result, Air Guard missions, cost-effectiveness and experience get left out of the decision-making equation," he said. "It's simply a bad way to do business, especially with dollars for modernization so scarce." The Air Force scheme, which is included in the president's 2011 budget proposal, would shift 11 C-130 Hercules cargo planes from Air Guard bases nationwide to replace older active-component models at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark.

It also would eliminate the only flying unit in the Puerto Rico Air Guard. In all, 21 Air Guard C-130s would be affected. Documents shared with lawmakers last month indicate that the aircraft would come from Air Guard units in Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.

Air Force leaders say part of the reasoning for the plan is that the Air Guard is not always "accessible" for missions. Guard leaders say the charge is pure myth.

"No one in the Air Force can cite a single example when the Air Guard did not show up when called," Hargett said. "And we keep asking for examples."

The association includes nearly 45,000 current or former Guard officers. It was created in 1878 to provide unified National Guard representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by petitioning Congress for more resources. Today, 132 years later, NGAUS has the same mission.

FMI: www.ngaus.org

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