Candice Miller for Congress, Michigan

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Pentagon plan doesn’t do enough, if anything, for Selfridge

by Candice Miller on April 26, 2012

By Christine Tierney, The Detroit News

Rep. Candice Miller called the Pentagon’s offer to reduce planned cuts at Air National Guard bases inadequate, joining a groundswell of opposition on Capitol Hill to the Air Force’s budget plans.

Miller, R-Harrison Township, said Wednesday that she had been given no assurances that the Selfridge Air National Guard Base in her district would benefit from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s plan to reduce proposed cuts of the Air National Guard by 2,200 people and spare 24 C-130 transport aircraft.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, said Tuesday that Panetta’s $400 million offer brightened the prospects for the Selfridge base, which once had C-130 planes.

But Miller said she was troubled that these were old planes vulnerable to future cuts.

“The C-130s that would be sent to the Air Guard … have been determined to be excess by the Department of Defense in previous force structure studies,” she said. “If the Air Force does not give the Air Guard newer C-130J aircraft, the planes that would be received are likely to be the first eliminated in future cuts.”

Miller said she was concerned that the Selfridge base might be vulnerable in the next round of base closures.

Michigan stands to lose 850 jobs at Selfridge and at the Kellogg Air Guard Station in Battle Creek in the Air Force’s proposed 2013 budget.

Citing evolving strategic considerations as well as fiscal constraints, the Air Force proposed in February to cut 9,900 positions — 3,900 active-duty, 5,100 in the Guard, and 900 from the Reserves.

The proposed cuts, falling disproportionately on National Guard operations, drew strong opposition from state governors and lawmakers. Michigan’s 15 House members and Gov. Rick Snyder all have objected.

Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Panetta’s proposed compromise would reverse more than 40 percent of the personnel reductions.

But lawmakers didn’t seem mollified Wednesday at a Senate Armed Forces subcommittee hearing on personnel issues attended by top Pentagon officials.

Daniel Ginsberg, assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs, reiterated that the budget proposal reflected the White House’s request for a nimble force able to respond quickly.

Responding to lawmakers who say the National Guard is less expensive than active-duty airmen, Ginsberg countered that, in high-intensity operations, the cost of using Guards and reservists rises fast.

Miller said it wasn’t clear what Panetta’s proposal will mean for Michigan’s bases.

Under the current plan, the Air Force plans to move 24 A-10 Warthog fighters out of Selfridge, and add four KC-135 refueling aircraft.

The 24 C-130 planes would be distributed nationwide. “As of yet I have received no assurance that any of these aircraft would be based at Selfridge,” she said. “The proposal also offers no funding for the Air Guard personnel costs on an ongoing basis so it is only a one-year fix that will have to be faced again next year.”

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