WASHINGTON — The National Guard Association on Thursday reaffirmed its support for a Congressional freeze on Air Force mission shifts during this fiscal year.
Congressional leaders are hoping to complete work before year’s end on an annual defense authorization bill that sets Pentagon policies through the fiscal year that began Oct. 1.
The House and Senate have approved separate bills. But, each version would block the Air Force from changing the mission of Air National Guard units like the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith. The Senate bill would also set up a commission to review future Air Force manpower requirements.
“Commissions are certainly not the ideal way to craft budget decisions. They are a last resort. But at this point, a commission independent from the Air Force is our only remaining hope for a transparent process that includes real input from the governors and Guard leaders,” said retired Maj. Gen. Gus L. Hargett Jr., the president of the association.
Hargett accused the Air Force of spreading misinformation about where the nation’s governors and adjutants general stand on proposed cuts to Air National Guard units.
“For the record, the nation’s governors and adjutants general favor a freeze on Air Guard manpower and force structure and the establishment of a National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force,” Hargett said in a press release issued Thursday.
The Air Force, in February, proposed $487 billion in spending reductions over the next decade that fell heavily on the Air National Guard. Congress rejected the plan and blocked the Air Force from making any mission changes as part of a temporary budget resolution that extends into March.
The Air Force has apparently modified its plan and shopped it around Capitol Hill. No official revision has been made public.
Hargett said that governor and adjutant generals have not signed off on any compromise.
Leaders of the National Governors Association — including Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin — urged Congress earlier this week to continue the Air Force freeze and agree to the Senate proposed commission.
In a letter to leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee, they wrote that there is no agreement on the Air Force budget and no agreement on a “consultative process for future years.”
Absent those agreements, they requested that the freeze be extended and that conferees agree to the Senate proposal for a National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force.
The Air Force’s budget proposal would scrap the A-10 mission in Fort Smith and replace it with a drone mission.