August 17, 2012
After Trying to Backpedal On Mansfield Cuts Under Political Pressure, Will He Land Air Force One At Rickenbacker And Backtrack On Hasty Cuts He's Making In Columbus?
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today kept the pressure on the Obama Administration regarding their penny-wise and pound-foolish cuts to Ohio's Air National Guard as the President announces travel to Columbus, home of Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base and the 121st Air Refueling Wing.
"I welcome President Obama back to Ohio. But I have a question: Is Air Force One landing at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, or will he avoid the 200 Ohio Air National Guardsmen whose service is on the line because of his haphazard budget cuts, much like the 800 Guardsmen at the 179th Airlift Wing based at Mansfield-Lahm Airport?" asked Portman.
"When the President came under pressure during his campaign visit to Mansfield two weeks ago, the White House tried to hastily reverse course and announced that they would try to find a new mission for the base where Air Force One was landing and the 800 Guardsman of the 179th who are losing their important air cargo mission under the Obama Administration plan," Portman continued.
"The White House thus far has not given any indication of what that new mission at Mansfield will be, but I wonder if President Obama will have another campaign epiphany, this time on the 121st at Rickenbacker, when he's in Columbus?” he continued.
"While I believe it is vital to balance a strong national defense with fiscal responsibility, the President's budget plans are completely lacking in sound analysis justifying the cuts he wants to make to the Air National Guard. The Air Guard often delivers greater bang for the taxpayer's buck and its units are particularly difficult to reestablish if we don't get this right. That's why I have been encouraging Congress to push these Air National Guard cuts off for a year, to give us more time to study the issues and make smart choices," finished Portman.
Ohio is disproportionately affected by these cuts, with Ohio Guardsmen accounting for one-fifth of all the President's proposed reductions. This includes jettisoning six KC-135 Stratotankers and about 200 positions at the 121st Air Refueling Wing at Rickenbacker in Columbus, as well as eliminating the C-27J and 179th Airlift Wing at Mansfield along with its 800 Guardsmen. The President's proposal was to eliminate these Air National Guard positions starting October 1, 2012. Portman and others succeeded in getting a one-year reprieve for the 121st as part of a larger freeze to Air Guard units nationally.Following the President’s politically-motivated change of heart regarding Mansfield, Portman sent a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley asking for more information regarding what the Air Force knows about the President's about-face and asking them to clarify what the promised new mission might be. To date, there has been no response from the Department of Defense, which seems to have been as surprised as the people of Mansfield about the White House's secret plan to save the 179th.