MARCH 12, 2012 AT 6:32 PM
BY DAVID SHEPARDSON DETROIT NEWS
Washington— Michigan’s 15 House members urged congressional leaders to reject proposed cuts at Selfridge Air National Guard, saying the military should conduct additional study on the costs of big cuts to the organization.
“At a minimum, we believe that a delay in any decision be made until the studies currently under way are completed to fully understand the delicate balance between cost savings and the preservation of combat capabilities,” said the letter signed by the House members and led by Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, who represents Selfridge in Congress.
“If the proposed budget is truly about saving taxpayer dollars, it seems incomprehensible that the overwhelming majority of airpower reductions should come from the Air National Guard when they are more cost effective than their active duty counterparts,” the letter said, expressing “grave concerns” about the cuts.
Last week, the U.S. Air Force said Michigan could lose more than 850 full- and part-time jobs as part of proposed cuts at Selfridge and Kellogg Air Guard Station in Battle Creek. The numbers were worse than earlier predictions.
The cuts would include more than a quarter of the state’s Air National Guard.
“Everyone understands the need to find savings in the military budget, but we must do so in a safe and responsible manner,” said Rep. Dave Camp, R-Midland, and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
But, he said, “the disproportionate cuts proposed in the Air Force budget would degrade the Air National Guard’s readiness and severely diminish its capabilities for homeland defense, disaster recovery and other state missions.”
At Selfridge in Harrison Township, the base would lose more than 700 positions, including 542 guard personnel, 19 full-time military and 163 technical and civilian personnel, according to a 215-page Air Force presentation.
Last week, Snyder said the state could lose more than 600 full- and part-time military jobs.
The Air Force wants to move A-10 fighter planes out of Selfridge.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has raised questions about the cuts and will hold a hearing March 20, where he will question how the decisions were made to make the cuts.
A spokeswoman for Levin, Tara Andringa, said Monday, “Senator Levin remains concerned about the planned Air National Guard changes in Michigan, and he wrote to Air Force Secretary Donley last month raising many of the same concerns included in the House delegation’s letter.”
Part of the discrepancy between the state’s earlier estimate and Air Force’s totals Tuesday is how both sides calculate the numbers. Michigan members of Congress are looking into how the state and Air Force count the losses.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said the cuts will allow the military to maintain its capabilities.
“We made a deliberate decision to avoid a ‘hollow force’ by prioritizing readiness over force structure,” Schwartz said. “A smaller, ready force is preferable to a larger force that is ill-prepared because it lacks adequate resources.”
Snyder has been pushing against the cuts.
“I’m not sure we are getting treated fairly by the Air Force,” Snyder said in a recent interview with The News. “Let’s do it in an open, transparent basis — based on capabilities and economics — not just the politics of the military.”
A presentation prepared by the Michigan National Guard, said the state is last in Defense Department employment adjusted for population and 43rd out of 50 in per capita defense spending.
The Air Force previously shuttered three bases in Michigan: Kincheloe, Wurtsmith, and K. I. Sawyer.
Snyder said the Air National Guard’s A-10 unit is cheaper to operate, $26 million versus $52 million for an active duty unit. “We do a much better job than the regular Air Force,” Snyder said. “It wasn’t one state versus another state. It is between Air Guard and Air Force and we can deliver better results at a lower cost.”
Snyder said the cuts “basically would decimate the Air National Guard in Michigan.”
The 127th wing at Selfridge would lose 24 A-10 Warthog fighters, but get four more KC-135 refueling aircraft, boosting the base’s role in a key area.
The Air Force also will deploy unmanned aircraft — a growing part of the U.S. arsenal — at the Battle Creek base.
The Air Force will replace Battle Creek Air National Guard’s planned C-27J cargo aircraft mission with a Remote Split Operations unit flying Air Force MQ-1 and MQ-9 unmanned craft.
At Battle Creek, the state would lose 93 guard personnel, 54 technical and civilian personnel but add 25 full-time military positions for a net loss of 122 jobs.
Under President Barack Obama’s proposed budget, the Air Force would be reduced to 501,000, with net reductions of 3,900 active duty, 5,100 Air National Guard and 900 Air Force Reserve personnel.
The letter asked why the Air National Guard, which represents 35 percent of the Air Force’s air capability and only 6 percent of the cost, is bearing 59 percent of the cuts in total aircraft.
“I am very glad that each of my colleagues from Michigan in the United States House of Representatives joined me to express our grave concerns with the proposed cuts to the Air National Guard,” Miller said. “Everyone understands the need to find cost efficiencies the military budget, but it is troubling that the Air Force would choose to find those savings by making such dramatic cuts to the most cost effective segment of the Air Force, the Air National Guard.”