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Selfridge is too critical for gutting

by Candice Miller on April 9, 2012

Editorial: 10:14 PM, Apr. 7, 2012

Times Herald

No one can dispute the vital role the Selfridge Air National Guard Base has played in war and peace. But the battle it faces today is not about defense. It’s about dollars and cents.

The federal government is spending beyond its means, and Washington is trying to cut costs. The Obama administration hopes to see $500 billion slashed from the defense budget in the next 10 years, and Selfridge would take a considerable hit.

The plan would remove all 24 A-10 Thunderbolt close air support jets of the 107th Fighter Squadron from the Harrison Township base. In exchange, Selfridge would receive four more KC-135 aerial refueling planes to the eight it has.

The base and Michigan would suffer. The 107th Fighter Squadron’s loss could cost Macomb and St. Clair counties’ businesses about $25 million a year, according to St. Clair County officials. It also could cost affect 154 airmen who live in the county.

It is no wonder the Michigan congressional delegation, Gov. Rick Snyder and government and business leaders in Macomb and St. Clair counties are united against this proposal and the hundreds of jobs that could be lost.

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, spoke to the severity of the administration’s cuts to the Air National Guard.

“If budgetary savings are the goal, then it makes little sense that the majority of cuts come from the most cost-effective part of the Air Force — the Air National Guard,” Miller said.

“The Air National Guard currently delivers 35% of our air capability while only accounting for 6% of the budget.”

The proposed cuts to Selfridge seem to ignore the 107th Fighter Squadron’s role as a critical defense asset, and they could undermine the base’s future. The squadron’s loss might set the stage for Selfridge’s closure.

No one can fault the Obama administration for taking steps to reduce the cost of the federal government. The failure of Congress to come up with a budget reduction plan leaves the White House no choice.

Defense cuts must be part of that effort — and they will be painful. But they also must be effective.

Michigan’s congressional delegation understands the cuts to Selfridge and the W. K. Kellogg base in Battle Creek are excessive. They should be reconsidered.

Southeastern Michigan depends on Selfridge. The base is too important to the region and the state to be downsized this severely.

Michigan’s delegation must fight for Selfridge’s future.

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