By Jill Laster, Staff writer
Air Force Times
Posted: Tuesday Feb 14, 2012 12:12:51 EST
The Air Force's proposal to cut more than 5,000 personnel and scores of aircraft from its Guard component is hitting turbulence from lawmakers and state-level Guard officials, who say the service should reconsider where it cuts.
About 5,100 guardsmen would be cut in fiscal 2013 if the service's proposal is approved on Capitol Hill, and a number of aircraft would be sold or scrapped over the next few years — including about 60 of the Guard's A-10s, a service workhorse used for close-air support.
Several state-level National Guard leaders say they don't see the logic behind the Air Force's proposal, and that all but top Guard leadership was left out of the decision-making process.
"This, to me, is totally out of character with the operating environment between the Air Force Reserve, the Air Guard and the active Air Force," said Maj. Gen. William Wofford, adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard. "Before, [the Guard] was always a full partner in the process, and this time it doesn't feel like a partnership."
Arkansas stands to lose about 20 A-10s belonging to the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith, Ark. Local government officials also started a website, which asks supporters to write Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and ask him to spare the fighter wing.
One argument used by opponents of the Air Force's proposal is that it echoes Cold War-era thinking — that the U.S. needs a large standing military meant to fight a looming threat — and that doesn't make sense during a drawdown.
Another is that the Air Force would spend less money by keeping a greater proportion of its aircraft and troops in the Guard. Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais, Michigan's adjutant general, said it doesn't make sense to cut the Guard versus the active-duty component when the Guard and guardsmen cost less.
"All I can tell you is, I'm sure not feeling the love," Vadnais said. "After 10 years of war together, honestly, it's just disappointing that that's the perspective. If I could get there logically and it made sense, I could say, 'OK, I don't like it.' I can't get there."
The Air Force announced Feb. 3 which units and aircraft would be trimmed from the service in coming years. But whether the changes will stick as the Defense Department budget makes its way through Congress remains to be seen. Within hours of Air Force leaders unveiling their proposed cuts, multiple members of Congress posted scathing rebuttals of the Air Force's plan on their websites.
The co-chairs of the Senate National Guard Caucus — Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. — also took to the Senate floor Feb. 9 to criticize cuts that Graham called "Draconian."
"We have the best of both worlds now: a very efficient, quite frankly cheaper force to maintain with very similar, if not like, capabilities," Graham said in comparing the Air National Guard with the active-duty force, "and we don't want to let that concept be eroded here by a plan that I think doesn't appreciate the role of the militia and doesn't appreciate the cost-benefit analysis from a robust reserve component."
But Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said during a Feb. 9 speech that the active and reserve components have worked closely together, and will continue to work together, on cuts the service must make over the next few years. He added that the service has taken risks it "deems acceptable and manageable.
"We have no illusions that the road ahead is going to be easy, as I discovered this morning on the Hill," Schwartz said at a forum hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C. think tank. "But I do think it's manageable if — if — we all deal with this in an unemotional fashion."
Please note: This news article has been already shared on 188th Fighter Wing's official Facebook page with the following statement:
Major Gen. William Wofford, adjutant general of the Arkansas National Guard, expresses his sentiments concerning potential Air Force budget cuts in this Air Force Times story: "This, to me, is totally out of character with the operating environment between the Air Force Reserve, the Air Guard and the active Air Force," General Wofford said. "Before, [the Guard] was always a full partner in the process, and this time it doesn't feel like a partnership."