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by Candice Miller on May 16, 2012

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Selfridge Base Council targets Levin

By Chad Selweski

Macomb Daily

The Selfridge Base Community Council turned up the heat on U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, demanding on Tuesday that the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman match the budget language in the House that would save Selfridge’s A-10 aircraft from extinction.

With about 250 members in attendance, BCC President Joseph Hallman said anything short of the identical language adopted by the House Armed Services Committee, which blocks all A-10 cuts planned by the Air Force across the nation, would be a “complete contradiction” of Levin’s professed support for Selfridge.

“Sen. Levin has the ability to save Selfridge — and also do what’s best for the country,” said Hallman, referring to the unsurpassed costefficiency of Air National Guard units.

As the BCC intensifies its role as the loudest lobbying group in defense of the Harrison Township base, it has cast aside talk of compromise and set its sights on preserving all of Selfridge’s 107th Fighter Squadron, a unit consisting of 24 A-10 Thunderbolts that provides about 560 military and civilian jobs.

But Levin aides say that the committee chairman has no intention of siding with the Air Force on cuts to A-10 squadrons.

Levin’s office put out a statement in response to the BCC criticism: “As Senator Levin has indicated, he will work to reverse the cuts in the National Guard budget that led to the proposed reductions in National Guard bases, such as Selfridge. He is hopeful that (his) committee will agree with his position.”

At the BCC event, Hallman urged the crowd to intensify their efforts to pressure Levin, through emails and phone calls, as the Senate prepares to consider a host of Defense Department budget cuts.

As the key figure on Capitol Hill on all defense matters, the senator has essentially taken a national perspective when addressing the overall Obama administration plan to cut Pentagon spending by $487 billion over 10 years. That does not include his views against Selfridge cuts that could jeopardize the future of the Air National Guard base.

At the same time, U.S. Rep. Candice Miller has taken an unabashedly parochial approach and she became a major player in assisting with the amendment that halts changes in Air Guard aircraft until a one-year cost-benefit analysis is completed on the efficiency of Guard squadrons vs. Air Force active duty units. That effort by Miller earned her two standing ovations from the BCC, which was meeting at Zuccaro’s banquet hall in Chesterfield Township.

“She’s getting results while others seem to be giving lip service,” Hallman said.

The luncheon meeting included an online connection between the crowd and Gov. Rick Snyder, using Google+ video chat technology. However, the attempt was plagued by audio and visual technical difficulties.

“Next, our work goes to the Senate and we need to work with our two senators and hope that we can have a loud voice there too,” Snyder told the crowd.

Before the Senate enters the picture, the House will debate the Armed Services Committee version of the Pentagon budget starting today and will vote on the legislation by Friday.

Miller, a Harrison Township Republican, said she’s confident the House will adopt the budget with the pro-Selfridge amendment intact, but she cautioned that this is a “critical, fluid time.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee will take up the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013 on Tuesday and it’s assumed on Capitol Hill that the starting point — Chairman Levin’s proposal — will differ from the House version. The final Senate version is expected to be, from a broad perspective, somewhat closer to the wishes of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta than House Republicans.

However, Levin aides are adamant that the senator will not agree with Panetta’s plan to eliminate five A-10 squadrons. Overall, the defense secretary had complained that the House bill contains too many pet projects and actually raises defense spending by $8 billion, instead of cutting.

In the end, lawmakers will meet in a House-Senate conference committee to iron out differences from the two versions.

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