Governor Brian Schweitzer today wrote to President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, announcing his intention to file legal action designed to prevent the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) from moving ahead with the transfer of the 120th Fighter Wing F-15 mission from the Montana Air National Guard until he is assured that the promised replacement mission is secure and will be assigned in time to prevent serious disruption in operation and manpower in Great Falls.
"It is essential that the Montana Air National Guard retain the ability to carry out its dual role mission of effective response to domestic emergencies" said Governor Schweitzer.
The F-15 transfer to California has been scheduled for a number of years and is on track to begin in the coming months. In fact, California National Guard members are in Great Falls today taking inventory of equipment and preparing to move some avionics equipment from Gore Hill.
In DOD's proposed re-alignments for 2013, the Montana Air National Guard was promised C-130 aircraft and a new mission well suited to its dual role to protect Montana citizens during times of emergency. However, the dramatic changes in the re-alignment proposal impact nearly every state and U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have each passed provisions intended to freeze all the equipment and manpower transfers proposed for 2013, including Montana's C-130s.
It appears the Senate version of the bill (National Defense Authorization Act -- NDAA -- for 2013) would also freeze the long scheduled transfer of the F-15s but the House version may not. Until a House and Senate Conference Committee agree to a bill that does prevent the upcoming F-15 transfer, or causes the simultaneous transfer in the C-130 aircraft and personnel authorizations, the Governor is left with no choice but to act to prevent a mission gap that would leave the Montana Air National Guard at enormous risk.
Montana's situation is unique and the Governor intends to use the authority granted him by federal law to ensure the Montana Air National Guard remains fully staffed and equipped while Congress sorts out the issues in the NDAA.