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Akin decries proposed cuts in Missouri's Air National Guard

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 7, 2012 - WASHINGTON – Asserting that proposed Pentagon cutbacks “will hurt the Missouri Air National Guard,” U.S. Rep. Todd Akin complained Tuesday that more than 200 jobs would be cut at the air guard unit at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis under the military’s budget plans for the next fiscal year.

Akin, R-Wildwood, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, also said that – under the budget proposed last month by the Obama administration – Scott Air Force Base near Belleville, Ill., would lose more than 500 active-duty Air Force personnel; Whiteman Air Force Base in western Missouri would lose at least 40 civilian Air Force jobs; and the Air National Guard unit in St. Joseph would lose 50 positions.

“These cuts will hurt the Missouri Air National Guard,” Akin said in a statement Tuesday evening. “Over 200 positions from Jefferson Barracks alone will negatively impact the Guard and families around the St. Louis region that depend on income from serving their country in the Missouri Guard.”

Akin’s comments came in the context of complaints by the nation’s National Guard leaders that the Air Guard would bear the brunt of cutbacks proposed by the administration’s defense budget proposal for Air Force personnel and aircraft.

The president of the National Guard Association, retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., complained last month that the proposed Air Force cutbacks “tilts heavily against the nation’s most experienced and cost-effective flying units.”

Saying that the Air National Guard was taking more than its share of the cuts, Hargett continued: “This not only squanders the opportunity to leverage the Air Guard to retain combat capability at a time when reductions must be made, it reduces the Air Force’s ability to quickly respond to unforeseen contingencies in the future.”

The Defense Department contends that the proposed cuts – which must be approved by Congress – are reasonable and would not harm the nation’s military preparedness. In testimony Tuesday to the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for manpower, Lt. Gen. Darrell D. Jones, defended the Air National Guard and other cutbacks as resulting from “extremely difficult resource priority decisions” to “balance capabilities between our active and reserve components to maintain a robust national security posture in a dynamic global environment.”

But the National Guard leaders of Missouri, Illinois and every other state cosigned a letter last week from their umbrella organization – the Adjutants General Association – complaining about the planned Air Guard cuts to the leaders of the U.S. House and Senate Armed Services and Appropriations committees.

“It is counterintuitive that the Air National Guard, which comprises 21 percent of the uniformed members of the Total Air Force, would bear 59 percent of the total aircraft cuts and approximately six times the per capita personnel cuts,” the state adjutants general wrote. They asked Congress to put a hold on the Air Force’s fiscal 2013 budget request until congressional committees review what the Guard leaders assert were “flawed processes, assumptions and criteria” used by the Air Force to propose the cuts.

Akin, who chairs the House subcommittee on seapower and projection forces, warned that the Pentagon’s proposed cuts – including the Air Guard reductions – would result “in a weaker military in dangerous times, and means we are sending airmen to the unemployment line.” He added in his statement: “This is not the way the Missouri National Guard or airmen in the Air Force should be treated, and it is not the way that our national security should be handled.”

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