“We cannot accept what we understand to be a 'take it or leave it' proposal without discussion, disclosure of underlying fiscal and operational data without time to consider its merits,” write the council's co-chairs, Govs. Terry Branstad (R-Iowa) and Christine Gregoire (D-Wash.), in a Nov. 15 letter to Air Force leadership.
“Governors are open to working with you to reach an agreement on a budget proposal we can all support for [fiscal] 2013 and 2014,” they continue. “By statute and executive order, the Council of Governors is the forum for this dialogue to take place between governors and the Department of Defense and we stand ready to work with you as expeditiously as possible.”
Gen. Harry Wyatt, director of the Air National Guard, brought in the military leaders of all the state guard bureaus, known as adjutants general, to discuss the proposal on Nov. 2. But because the hastily arranged meeting was scheduled so close to the election, it was difficult for the officials to attend, says a source familiar with the meeting.
Aides on Capitol Hill, who see the Air Force proposal as a legitimate compromise, point out that the governors are not rejecting its substance. Rather, they say the issue is which remaining aircraft and personnel the proposal will recommend cutting, they say.
Another question is how the Air Force will pay to restore force structure. A defense lobbyist says the service is likely to raid flight hours, training and operation, and sustainment accounts. “You go hollow for the year,” he says.
A proposal in the Senate Armed Services Committee's (SASC) fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill asks the Air Force to hold off on reductions to force structure until they are reviewed by a National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force that will report back to Congress by March 31, 2013. But even that provision is controversial. A Senate aide contends that the commission will help build a consensus around final decisions, while the defense lobbyist says the military would prefer to settle the matter in-house.
Wyatt's spokeswoman says the Air Force has made it “a priority” to involve the adjutants general in the Guard decisions. Still, “if Congress decides to create a commission, General Wyatt will cooperate with any request for information to ensure transparency of the Air Force force structure process,” says Col. Nahaku McFadden.
SASC Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) had predicted the defense policy bill would be on the Senate floor for debate just after the Thanksgiving recess. But the Senate wrapped up its business Nov. 15 without an agreement to debate it.
Jen DiMascio Washington