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Latham cautions White House on closing guard base


This news story was published on February 2, 2012.
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Washington, DC, Feb 1 – Iowa Congressman Tom Latham on Wednesday cautioned the White House to abandon any plans to close the Iowa Air National Guard’s 132nd F-16 Fighter Wing based in Des Moines.

Latham sent the letter following increased speculation that the 132nd Fighter Wing could be included in a base realignment and closure process that is expected to be announced in the President’s Budget on February 13th.

“Already, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel account for 14 percent of personnel funds, but perform over half of all Air Force missions,” noted Latham in the letter. “The Air National Guard alone provides 35 percent of Air Force capabilities with only 6 percent of its budget.”

Latham went on to highlight the effectiveness and efficiency of the 132nd in the letter. “Of all Air National Guard F-16 wings, the 132nd Fighter Wing has the lowest military personnel costs, among the highest levels of mission readiness, and many of the most experienced personnel, with maintenance crews averaging 11 years experience and pilots averaging at least four combat deployments. As you may know, Guard and Reserve pilots and personnel have on average more experience than their active duty counterparts.”

The full text of the letter is below:

February 1, 2012

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington D.C.

Dear Mr. President:

I am writing to express my concerns with reports in the media that the upcoming Fiscal Year 2013 budget request is expected to include plans to close several Air National Guard Wings, including an F-16 wing in Iowa. Since there is only one such wing in my state, I assume that this refers to the Iowa Air National Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing, located at the Des Moines International Airport.

I believe it would be a mistake to respond to budgetary constraints but cutting Guard and Reserve component infrastructure. Alternatively, streamlining the active component and growing Guard and Reserve capabilities would maintain much of accumulated experience and expertise in today’s forces needed to meet potential challenges in the future, at a lower cost.

Already, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel account for 14 percent of personnel funds, but perform over half of all Air Force missions. The Air National Guard alone provides 35 percent of Air Force capabilities with only 6 percent of its budget.

Of all Air National Guard F-16 wings, the 132nd Fighter Wing has the lowest military personnel costs, among the highest levels of mission readiness, and many of the most experienced personnel, with maintenance crews averaging 11 years experience and pilots averaging at least four combat deployments. As you may know, Guard and Reserve pilots and personnel have on average more experience than their active duty counterparts.

Formed in 1941, the 132nd Fighter Wing has contributed to every major U.S. air operation in recent years, including nine deployments in Operations Northern Watch, Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom, playing a key role in successes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Wing’s Distributed Training Operations Center is the only DOD unit providing daily tactical mission operational training events for Active, Guard, Reserve, and joint operations. The F-16 simulator training program is networked worldwide and is training an increasing number of airmen. The Wing also played a key role in the recovery efforts during the 1993 and 2008 flooding in the Des Moines area, providing logistics and personnel support to the relief operations. In addition to its mission capabilities the 132nd Fighter Wing has a significant economic impact on the local community, contributing 1,000 direct jobs and $54 million annually to the Iowa economy.

I understand that the U.S. Air Force is striving to achieve the goal of seamless integration between active duty and reserve component members under the Total Force, with the correct balance to meet the national security needs of the future in a constrained budget environment. I simply do not believe that closing the 132nd Fighter Wing is consistent with that goal, and I respectfully urge you to reject any such plans, and protect this valuable national security resource.

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