Congress Crafts 'Tough Compromise' On Proposed Air Guard Budget Cuts

Dec 19, 2012, 13:18 ET from National Guard Association of the U.S.

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Guard Association of the United States today released the following statement by retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the NGAUS president:

"The final conference report on the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act is a mixed bag of wins and losses for the Air National Guard, the Air Force and the nation.

"The language developed by House and Senate negotiators restores the cuts Air Force officials wanted to make to the Air Guard's domestic response capability. It also creates an independent commission that should add at least some transparency to development of future Air Force budgets.

"These items are major victories for the Guard and the nation's governors. So are the restoration of most of the Air Guard personnel the Air Force wanted to cut and the inclusion of $500 million in the congressionally directed National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account.   

"But the report allows the Air Force to retire some Air Guard F-16 and A-10 fighters, which, in effect, will deny the nation the service of some of the Air Force's most experienced pilots and maintainers. It also enables the Air Force to cascade to the Air Guard some C-130 cargo aircraft that are nearing retirement age. 

"This tough compromise appears to be influenced by an 11th-hour Air Force initiative aimed at a handful of House negotiators. Reporters on Capitol Hill have called this effort 'lobbying.' If true, this would violate Title 18, Section 1913 of the U.S. Code, which specifically prohibits such activity in order to maintain the appropriate separation of powers that are bedrock to our nation.

"Nevertheless, while it still needs to be approved by both chambers and signed by the president, the final conference is likely only days from becoming the law of the land. However, the struggle to ensure the nation derives maximum benefit from the National Guard will continue.

"Through the statutorily created Council of Governors, the governors have encouraged the Pentagon to work more closely with them on budget matters, particularly those that impact the ability of states to safeguard lives and property. This is where the new commission can be a real asset. It should provide a forum in which the full impact of force structure decisions on the Guard's domestic and overseas missions can be considered.  

"Sadly, the standoff of the last several months, and all the resulting ill will, could have been avoided had Air Force officials consulted the governors and worked more sincerely with Guard officials. A constructive way forward would be the collaborative development in the months ahead of a strategic plan to modernize the Air Guard.

"And a good first step would be to keep the new C-27J Spartan cargo plane in the Air Guard fleet or an Air Force commitment to modernize older Air Guard C-130s to accomplish time-sensitive/mission-critical airlift missions overseas and domestic response at home. "

About NGAUS: The association includes nearly 45,000 current or former Guard officers. It was created in 1878 to provide unified National Guard representation in Washington. In their first productive meeting after Reconstruction, militia officers from the North and South formed the association with the goal of obtaining better equipment and training by petitioning Congress for more resources. Today, 134 years later, NGAUS has the same mission.

SOURCE National Guard Association of the U.S.