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Chamber takes manned air mission to Washington

March 5th, 2012 by

The Chamber and its Board of Directors understand and value the important role our military men and women play in our community. When news came that the Department of Defense budget had the Happy Hooligans C27J Spartan mission in its cross hairs, The Chamber spent little time in determining if this was a fight that warranted its full weight.

Craig Whitney, President and CEO of The Chamber, enlisted General Mike Haugen, General Alex MacDonald, General Darrol Schroeder and the Airport Authorities’ Steve Blazek to head to Washington to speak with Congressional leaders and top brass on the impact the loss of a manned aircraft would have on the community.

Following the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) process, the plan for the 119th Wing was to retire the F-16 fighter jets in 2007 and provide the C-21 Lear jets as a “bridge mission” to keep pilots and maintainers active until the C-27J Spartans were scheduled to arrive in late 2012 or early 2013.

“At this point, the North Dakota National Guard is slated to be the only state in the country without a manned aircraft mission,” said Whitney. “That poses serious issues from both an economic and a homeland security standpoint.”

At meetings with North Dakota’s delegation, it was made clear that losing the C-27s won’t happen without a fight.

Senator John Hoeven provided his insight to the team from Fargo assuring them the work he did as Governor in the 2005 BRAC round provided in federal legislation a manned mission for the 119th.  Senator Hoeven said that anything that changes the current law has to go through Congress.

Representative Rick Berg also recognizes the importance of this issue, meeting with Whitney and others between his committee meetings. Congressman Berg understands the role the Air National Guard plays and that it should not shoulder the bulk of the budget reduction.

General Macdonald explained that the Air National Guard currently provides 35 percent of the Air Force’s capacity while using only 6 percent of the total budget. The proposals hit the Air National Guard with 59 percent of the total aircraft budget reductions.

“Cutting a mission that is designed to provide improved efficiencies and operate more affordably is not the kind of public policy our country needs right now,” said Whitney.

Senator Kent Conrad, Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, is no stranger to the promises made to the 119th Wing in 2005. He reconfirmed to the team from Fargo that cuts are being made across the board, a 2012 BRAC will not happen. He said the 2005 BRAC did not result in the expected savings.

Following the meetings with North Dakota’s Congressional delegation a reception was held to recognize North Dakota’s National Guard. In a lineup of Guard supporters, Whitney again was able to express the importance of ensuring a manned mission for the 119th.

Whitney, The Chamber and its Military Affairs committee are committeed to acting in support of our military resources.

“The economic impact of the National Guard on our community is over $70 million and it is hard to express how much we depend on their service in our community.”

 

 

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