Candice Miller for Congress, Michigan

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We must fight in defense of our National Guard citizen soldiers

by Candice Miller on May 15, 2012

The Times Herald

http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20120515/OPINION02/305150021/Candice-Miller-We-must-fight-defense-our-National-Guard-citizen-soldiers?odyssey=mod%7Cnewswell%7Ctext%7CFRONTPAGE%7Cs&nclick_check=1

Earlier this year, the U.S. Air Force put forward a budget that would eliminate the Michigan Air National Guard’s 107th Fighter Squadron. The squadron flies A-10 ground-attack fighter jets from Selfridge Air National Guard Base along with other similar units throughout the nation.

This action would eliminate more than 800 jobs in Michigan alone. While I agree we must find savings throughout the federal budget — including defense — I believe the Air Force was looking at the wrong part of its budget to find those savings.

The Air National Guard contributes 35% of the air capability of the Air Force for only 6% of the budget. The Air Guard is the most cost-effective part of the Air Force and should be the last place to find budget savings.

I met with the secretary of the Air Force and asked him to justify the cuts. In a nutshell, Michael B. Donley said, “It’s their turn.”

That is not good enough.

Forty-nine governors and every adjutant general of the National Guard in America has expressed opposition to these cuts and proposed an alternative. Gov. Rick Snyder and Adjutant Gen. Gregory Vadnais of the Michigan National Guard have been strong leaders in this fight. The Pentagon summarily dismissed their ideas.

That took the fight to Congress.

While the executive branch proposes policy, Congress has the duty to enact policy into law. I have been working with my colleagues not only to turn back these Air National Guard cuts, but also to find appropriate savings in the Pentagon’s budget to save the units the Department of Defense wants to eliminate.

I am glad to report we have taken the first step to turn back these cuts by including provisions within the National Defense Authorization Act. I worked with my colleagues on provisions adopted by the House Armed Services Committee that would keep all Air National Guard units in place through next year and require the Air Force to submit a cost-benefit analysis of their proposed cuts.

The provisions also instruct the Government Accountability Office to prepare an independent review of any proposed cuts. I believe a thoughtful examination will confirm the cost-effective nature of the Air National Guard.

As an example, we fully paid for these protections by finding other reductions amounting to a little more than a tenth of 1% of the Pentagon’s budget. This saved more than 800 jobs in Michigan and thousands more across the nation.

This bill will come to the House floor this week. I am confident it will be passed.

Then the Senate must put in similar protections for the Air Guard in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act.

America’s freedom was won because of the service and sacrifice of the citizen militia, the Minutemen that became our National Guard. Congress now has the duty to hear the Minuteman’s call and defend those who so selflessly and ably defend our freedom.

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