Air National Guard leaders focus on BRAC

  • Published
  • By Army Master Sgt. Bob Haskell
  • National Guard Bureau
Air National Guard leaders are urging citizen Airmen nationwide to remain focused on their missions while they and others consider the organization's future during this year's Base Realignment and Closure process.

Lt. Gen. Daniel James III, ANG director, and Chief Master Sgt. Richard Smith, ANG command chief master sergeant, are looking at BRAC from a pragmatic perspective on behalf of the organization's more than 106,000 guardsmen.

Some Guard units may have to take on different missions, General James said. But the force will not be reduced because "BRAC only affects infrastructure. It doesn't eliminate people, missions and jobs," he said.

"The harsh reality is that the Air Force will be buying considerably less force structure -- airplanes -- than we now fly,” General James said. “That means we may close units, combine units or share airplanes. We expect to do some of each.”

Seven states would have no Guard flying units if the BRAC Commission, President Bush and Congress accept the Pentagon's proposals, the general said.

The Defense Department is still configured for the Cold War that ended about 15 years ago and that it must change to accommodate "the new demands of the war against extremism and other evolving challenges," defense officials said.

The four previous BRAC rounds eliminated about 21 percent of excess U.S. military infrastructure and reallocated billions of dollars to pressing military needs, officials said. If approved, this year's recommendations should result in a net savings of $48.8 billion over the next 20 years.

While acknowledging that Defense Department recommendations could affect 30 Guard flying units with closures or realignments, General James said this is only the opening round and that "if your flying mission is affected, I will do everything I can to secure a future mission that is relevant and funded."

The BRAC Commission will visit the affected facilities, conduct hearings, examine the service recommendations and make independent decisions about what to forward to the president for his approval by Sept. 8. The president has until Sept. 23 to inform the commission and Congress if he approves the commission's recommendations. Congress then has 45 days to reject the entire list, or it becomes law.

"The Air Force of the future will be flying fewer airplanes, but there will be significant needs for other missions -- intelligence, security police, space, medics, (unmanned aerial vehicles), air mobility divisions, expeditionary combat support, etc.," General James said.

"I will work hard with the Air Force to see that each state is covered with appropriate missions which provide for both state and federal roles and the homeland security aspects of each, and I will distribute a transition plan as soon as possible," he said.

"Overall, BRAC equals transformation,” Chief Smith said. “The Air National Guard is always changing. Change has been done by generations before, and now it's our turn.”

Observing that any BRAC implementations would take place through 2011, Chief Smith said "the mission of the Air National Guard must go on. Our deployments, operational readiness inspections and training must continue. As senior (noncommissioned officers), we must have the mission first and our people always. Remember our people.

"This is not the same Air National Guard that we older members remember from 30-plus years ago,” he said. “And it will not be the same Air National Guard 30 years from now.”

"These are difficult times,” General James said. “They demand clear heads and hard work. Work with me, (and) I will work with you. Together we will assure a future for the Air National Guard with new missions in a new world."