November 26, 2012
Credit: Credit: Montana Air National Guard
Despite a mood in Washington to cut federal spending, lawmakers remain just as reluctant to turn the knives on their home districts.
Congress shut down the U.S. Air Force's fiscal 2013 request to reduce the Air National Guard's force structure, instead recommending that the service hold off on reductions until a commission studies the situation.
Before the bill recommending formation of the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force becomes law, the Air Force is proposing its own solution: to dramatically scale back cuts to the Air National Guard. It could slash its original personnel reduction by 40%, according to a draft slide from the service.
The change in Air Force plans may splinter the opposition over the district-by-district details of the new proposal, while opening another fight about informing all of the players. Because of the National Guard's unique role in serving federal and state governments, decisions involving it invariably involve a host of politicians—the states' lawmakers, governors and the adjutants general—who can fetter quick action but nonetheless provide political support that has been key to advancing the Guard.
The Air Force is not commenting publicly on its draft proposal for Guard end strength of 105,300, which could also curb by 60% its planned reduction to aircraft fleets.
Fiscal 2013 started on Oct. 1, but the government is operating on a continuing resolution of 2012 spending levels that expires at the end of March.
“No decisions have been made,” stresses Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek, who says the proposal has not been submitted to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. “We don't have anything we're speaking about publicly.”
Still, the proposal is making its way through Capitol Hill, where reaction to it is mixed. While the Council of Governors is supportive of “constructive Air Force movement” on the force structure reductions, it is railing against being shut out of the process.