U.S. Senators Jay Rockefeller and Robert C. Byrd , both D-W.Va., today sent a letter to the Secretary of the Air Force strongly questioning the announcement that the Air Force plans to transfer twelve C-130 aircraft, including two from the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston, to an Air Force Reserve Unit in Arkansas.
The West Virginia Senators' strongly worded letter to Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley follows:
Dear Secretary Donley:
We are deeply unhappy to learn that the Air Force plans to transfer twelve C-130 aircraft, including two from the 130th Airlift Wing in Charleston, West Virginia, to an Air Force Reserve unit in Arkansas without discussion with the National Guard and without apparent consideration for the ability of the National Guard to sustain its critical support mission during a period of active overseas military operations.
Please provide us with the analyses conducted by the U.S. Air Force that support the transfer of the twelve C-130 aircraft from National Guard bases across the United States to the Little Rock Air Force Base. Our understanding of this proposed reallocation is that, in order to avoid the expense associated with recapitalization of an aging fleet, the Air Force is simply commandeering aircraft from the Air National Guard.
If the decision is made to transfer these aircraft, we fully expect that it will be accompanied by a supplemental request from the Air Force for the procurement of twelve new C-130 aircraft to replace those aircraft being taken from the Air National Guard, which is very actively involved in support of the homeland security mission as well as U.S. overseas contingency operations.
This is not the first time the Air Force has attempted to recapitalize the active force at the expense of the National Guard. In the recent past, the Air Force also acquired six RC-26 aircraft from the Air National Guard to supplement Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) assets in support of overseas contingency operations as an enduring requirement. These aircraft have not been replaced, and we have not yet received a response to our request for information on the plan to replace these ISR aircraft, which are critical to the National Guard's homeland defense, homeland security, and domestic counter-narcotics missions in the United States.
We strongly urge you to reconsider the proposed reallocation of aircraft and to independently address the recapitalization needs of both the Air Force and Air National Guard without sacrificing readiness in either force.
We look forward to your response at the earliest opportunity.
Senator John D. Rockefeller IV
Senator Robert C. Byrd