Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Air Force asks Congress to Cut 459 Jobs from Iowa Air Guard

March 7, 2012

The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday asked Congress to eliminate 459 positions within the 132nd Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard as part of a broader reduction in Pentagon spending and a realignment in military forces.

Col. Gregory Hapgood Jr., the Iowa National Guard’s public affairs officer, said Tuesday night the Air Force’s proposal would result in the loss of 81 full-time jobs associated with the Des Moines-based unit, plus an additional 378 part-time military positions. The fighter wing, which dates to the early 1940s, currently has nearly 1,000 airmen.

The Air Force’s announcement on Tuesday follows a Pentagon recommendation last month to eliminate all F-16 combat aircraft in Des Moines. The Air Force has proposed replacing the fighter unit with one that remotely controls unmanned combat aircraft. But the Predator or Reaper drones wouldn’t be based in Des Moines and would probably be located outside of the United States.

Reaction from Iowa’s congressional delegation was swift and critical of the Air Force’s staffing proposal, both from Republicans and Democrats.

U.S. Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Ia., a retired U.S. Army helicopter pilot whose congressional district includes Des Moines, said he had serious doubts whether any real savings would be realized. He noted the Air National Guard would sustain more substantial cuts than active-duty Air Force units, which are more costly to operate and have less experienced pilots and maintenance crews.

U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Ia., called the Air Force’s overall budgeting plans an example of “jamming together pieces of a puzzle that just don’t fit.”

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., noted that the 132nd Fighter Wing has been recognized as one of the best in the country, adding, “It simply makes no sense to take away its mission.”

Air Force officials in Washington said the fiscal 2013 budget would adjust the Air Force’s strength to 501,000, with net reductions of 3,900 active-duty personnel, 5,100 Air National Guardsmen, and 900 Air Force Reserve members.

“Working with our Guard and Reserve leaders, we used a balanced approach to adjust our total force end strength while maintaining the ability to execute strategic guidance,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said. “Our total force programmed reductions follow detailed assessments of future conflict scenarios and rotational requirements consistent with the new strategic guidance.”

Schwartz said that the Air Force made a deliberate decision to avoid a “hollow force” by prioritizing readiness.

“A smaller, ready force is preferable to a larger force that is ill-prepared because it lacks adequate resources,” he added.

Gov. Terry Branstad contended the cuts would hurt the ability of the Iowa National Guard to respond to emergencies and protect citizens, such as levee monitoring activities last summer along the Missouri River.

The Iowa National Guard currently has about 9,400 soldiers and airmen.

As co-chair of the Council of Governors, Branstad said he is leading a nationwide effort on behalf of the nation’s governors to ensure that the complete value of the National Guard is reflected in national policy and the Pentagon budget. He is among 49 governors nationwide who have signed a letter objecting to proposed cuts in Air National Guard units.

“We can best manage and execute responses to emergencies, and better protect our citizens here at home and abroad by empowering the National Guard,” Branstad said. “To cut this efficient, low-cost, and effective response force in the name of cost savings is shortsighted. We should rely on the National Guard more, not less.”

The Air Force has proposed eliminating $8.7 billion in spending as part of an overall Pentagon budget package that would slash nearly $32 billion in annual federal appropriations.

Supporters of the Air Guard point out that it provides 35 percent of the Air Force’s capability for 6 percent of the budget. But the Air Guard maintains high levels of combat readiness because of the experience of its personnel, many of whom are veterans of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Ia., said Tuesday that reversing the Air Force’s recommendation to Congress will take a concerted effort by National Guard advocates. But he said Congress will have an opportunity to block or temper the cuts when annual legislation to authorize defense spending is considered later this year.

Central Iowa business and community leaders have rallied around the 132nd Fighter Wing. They say it contributes $54 million annually, including a payroll of $36 million, to the Des Moines area economy.

But Air Force officials said in a statement that they faced difficult choices to implement cuts required by the Budget Control Act over the next 10 years.

“Achieving the right active and Reserve forces mix is critical for meeting our forward presence, rapid response and high rotational demands with a smaller force,” Schwartz said.

Iowa's Congressional Delegation Reacts

Sen. Chuck Grassley, Republican: “Reversing this decision will take a concerted effort by National Guard advocates in Congress. Fiscal responsibility and stewardship dictate that the Air Force should use a cost-benefit analysis that looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the active and Reserve forces. It’s not clear that such a process has been used, and the Air Force needs to account for its approach.”

Democrat: Sen. Tom Harkin, Democrat: “Calling for the elimination of this many jobs from our states is nothing short of unconscionable — particularly given the countless missions and deployments that have been made over the last decade. The 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines has been recognized as one of the top performing units in the country. It simply makes no sense to take away its mission and cut it so deeply. To date, the Air Force has failed to satisfactorily answer a single question posed about this decision since rumors of this proposal first surfaced. The Air Force has failed to demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of cutting so deeply into the guard and reserve personnel, decommissioning the 132nd Fighter Wing, or any other guard unit or the impact any of it will have on local communities. The National Guard and Reserve provide a great benefit to the nation at a lower cost than the active component. They work seamlessly alongside the active military when called to duty, while also remaining flexible and ready to help at home when needed in crisis or natural disaster. Now that Congress has the Air Force’s full proposal, I will consult with the rest of the Iowa delegation on our next steps to address our concerns.”

Rep. Leonard Boswell, Democrat: “I continue to have serious doubts as to what real savings would be achieved with these suggested cuts to the Air Guard which are disproportionate to what the Air Force is facing. Here we are a month after the initial announcement slowly learning the real impacts on manpower. If this is supposed to be about responsibly reducing the budget, this data should have already been known and factored into their analysis. I believe the Air Force needs to go back to the drawing board.”

Rep. Tom Latham, Republican: “The elimination of nearly 500 positions within the Iowa National Guard’s 132nd F-16 Fighter Wing is painful news for the regional economy and, especially, the men and women who depend on those jobs to support themselves and their families. The justification given for eliminating these positions has been vague and imprecise, and it’s become apparent that a sound cost-benefit analysis did not factor into the decision.“It is irresponsible to design the nation’s entire Air Force structure by jamming together pieces of a puzzle that just don’t fit. The 132nd Fighter Wing counts among its ranks some of the most experienced F-16 pilots and maintainers in the force, with around four times the amount of flying time and years of experience as their active duty counterparts. The fighter wing has served our country with distinction and honor. We owe it to the American people to scrap this misguided plan and start over with a process that promises the result of an accountable plan based on truths, real facts, solid data, and maintaining the capabilities that are key to our national security in the years ahead.”
Rep. Bruce Braley, Democrat: “Stopping the Air Force’s misguided cuts to the Des Moines Air National Guard wing isn’t a partisan issue, it’s just common sense. If the Air Force’s goal is to reduce costs, downsizing the Iowa Air National Guard while more expensive units and less experienced pilots are preserved elsewhere just doesn’t add up. The Pentagon’s priorities are wrong, and I’ll continue working alongside Iowa’s elected leaders to stop this damaging plan in its tracks.”

Rep. Dave Loebsack, Democrat: “Today’s announcement is nothing short of appalling. The Iowa Air National Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing is one of the most experienced and best performing fighter wings in the Air Force. In this time of economic hardship, I have called on the Air Force to fully explain how they would plan on supporting the men and women and the families of those whose jobs would be eliminated under their proposal.” I will continue to fight against any budget proposal that negatively affects the Iowa Air National Guard.”

Rep. Steve King, Republican: “At a time when the American people are demanding that their tax dollars be stretched as far as possible, it makes no sense to cut the National Guard. The Guard is an extremely effective and efficient component of our nation’s military, and Iowa’s Guard units are among the best in the country. The Air Force still has much to explain about the basis for its decision to remove the 132nd's F-16s and the nearly 500 positions that go with them, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the House, Senators Grassley and Harkin, and Governor Branstad to demand answers and action."

Additional Facts


AIRCRAFT: 21 F-16 fighter jets.

COMMANDER: Col. Drew DeHaes.

PROPERTY: The Des Moines Air National Guard Base has 38 buildings on 162 acres owned by the city of Des Moines and leased through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the U.S. Air Force for $1 per year through 2060. The facilities have a replacement cost of $267 million.

ECONOMIC IMPACT: The annual economic impact to central Iowa is estimated at $54 million, including a $36 million payroll, $4.5 million in operating expenses, and $13.5 million in indirect jobs created.

OVERSEAS DEPLOYMENTS: Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar, other countries.

IOWA MOBILIZATIONS: 1993 and 2008 for Iowa floods.

AWARDS: Outstanding unit award three times in the past six years, ranking it as one of the best Air National Guard units in the country.

Source: Iowa National Guard

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