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National Guard gets a reprieve

by Candice Miller on May 29, 2012

The Times Herald

http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20120529/OPINION01/305290011/National-Guard-gets-reprieve?odyssey=nav|head

Thanks in part to efforts of Michigan’s congressional delegation, the Air Force’s proposed cuts to Air National Guard bases in this state have been scrapped. Michigan dodged a bullet.

A good argument was made against the severity of the reductions. U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, was especially persuasive in a May 15 guest column for the Times Herald.

“I believe the Air Force was looking at the wrong part of its budget to find those savings,” Miller said.

“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.”

Miller’s fight against the cuts in the House and Carl Levin’s efforts in the Senate helped exclude them from the $631 billion defense budget bill the Armed Services Committee approved last week.

“The Air National Guard performs an extremely important function, and its capabilities should not be casually or precipitously changed,” Levin said in a news release.

“The Air Force proposal, which disproportionately affected the Air National Guard, was ill-conceived and unjustified. Our bill rejects the Air Force’s proposal and takes steps to prevent a repeat of such poorly thought-out proposals.”

There is no disputing the impact the cuts at Selfridge could have had on Macomb and St. Clair counties. The 107th Fighter Squadron’s loss could cost the counties’ businesses about $25 million a year. It also could harm 154 airmen who live in St. Clair County.

The cuts were part of the Obama administration’s plan to reduce the defense budget by $500 billion in the next 10 years. If the Air National Guard cutbacks appeared ham-handed, so be it. But Washington is saddled with a national debt of more than $15 trillion. Spending cuts — painful ones — must be made.

The fighter jets at Selfridge are critical weapons in our nation’s defense. As Miller noted, the Air National Guard is a cost-effective asset that has little fat to lose.

Some day soon, other military operations will be on the chopping block. They might not be subject to a plan as clumsy as the Air National Guard austerity proposal. They also might not have an ally in Levin, the chairman of the armed services committee.

Sooner or later, the piper must be paid. For the Air National Guard, it won’t be today.

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