Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin has enlisted Wisconsin Senators Herb Kohl and Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner, Tom Petri, Ron Kind, Gwen Moore, Reid Ribble and Sean Duffy, and Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger in her effort to raise concerns about proposed Air Force restructuring and its impact on Wisconsin and the region.
In a bipartisan, bicameral letter sent earlier this week to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley, Baldwin and her colleagues expressed their concerns over the recently announced Air Force plan that, if approved by Congress, would result in the loss of aircraft and personnel at the Wisconsin Air National Guard bases in Milwaukee and Madison. These losses not only could pose a threat to national security, but could harm ongoing regional anti-narcotics and emergency preparedness efforts.
"The men and women of Wisconsin's Air National Guard are outstanding citizen-soldiers of whom we can all be proud," said Congresswoman Baldwin. "There's no question that we must cut excess fat from our military budget and restructure our Armed Forces to meet the challenges of the 21st Century. We deserve to know, however, how these restructuring decisions are made. I'm particularly interested in learning why so many Air Force Guard and Reservist units are being cut when their cost efficiency and superior expertise are so well-documented," Baldwin said.
The Air National Guard provides 35 percent of Air Force capabilities with only 6 percent of its budget. Further, Guard and Reserve pilots and personnel have, on average, more experience than their active duty counterparts. Despite this, under the plan, more than 5,000 Air National Guard members will be cut over the next year across the country. The Wisconsin Air National Guard's net loss would be 114 positions, 16 of them full-time, amounting to roughly 5 percent of its authorized end strength of 2,290 Airmen.
In addition, the loss of two planes from the Milwaukee-based 128th Air Refueling Wing's fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers, used for aerial refueling, reverses the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) decision to increase the unit from 9 to 12 tankers. The plan would also eliminate the Madison-based 115th Fighter Wing's RC-26 aircraft, used for aerial surveillance. The Members pointed out that losing the sole RC-26 in the state will severely limit regional anti-narcotics efforts, emergency preparedness, and training capacity.
To better understand the rationale behind the Air Force restructuring proposal, the Members requested a copy of the detailed analysis used to reach the decisions about plane realignments and personnel cuts, including the proposed balance of active duty to Air National Guard and Air Reserve cuts.
For the past two years, Congresswoman Baldwin has championed the effort, with her colleagues from Wisconsin, to ensure that Truax Field in Madison is considered for the next round of aircraft basing.