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Air National Guard: Governors Urge Congress To Restore Funding

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The nations' governors are asking Congress to restore funding for the Air National Guard, saying that talks with the U.S. Department of Defense have failed to yield an agreement.

In letters sent Friday to congressional appropriations leaders and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the co-chairs of the Council of Governors protested proposed Air Force budget cuts, which they said disproportionately hit the state Air National Guard units. The Council of Governors is a bipartisan group of 10 governors, co-chaired by Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R), which works with the federal government on defense and homeland security issues.

"Governors, through our Adjutants General and the Council of Governors (CoG), have worked diligently with the Air Force and the U.S. Department of Defense to rectify the surprising and disproportionate cuts facing the ANG as part of the U.S. Air Force's Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 budget request," Gregoire and Branstad wrote. "Unfortunately those negotiations have not produced an agreement; it is therefore critical that Congress address the deficiencies in the Air Force's budget request."

The letter was also co-signed by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D), the chairman and vice chairman of the National Governors Association, which oversees the Council of Governors.

Governors are saying the Air Force budget proposal calls for a 59 percent reduction in aircraft for the Air National Guard units and six times the per-person cuts that were imposed on the Air Force; 93 percent of National Guard cuts would come in the first year of a five-year military plan. The state leaders said this would hamper their abilities to operate the military forces within their states for emergency disaster relief, and that it would have an impact on overseas military deployment.

The Council of Governors has been working with Panetta since February to address the budget cuts, but said the negotiations led to the Pentagon leader proposing fiscal plans similar to the original budget plan. In a letter sent Friday to Panetta, Gregoire and Branstad said they appreciate several of his offers, including the transfer of 24 C-130 aircraft from active duty units to the Air National Guard, but disagreed with his proposal to restore only 1,179 positions, saying more are needed.

Branstad and Gregoire said that governors would prefer the cuts be spread evenly between the National Guard and the Air Force. In the letter to Panetta, they said an NGA analysis has shown that National Guard troops offer long-term cost savings to the military, noting that after 26 years each National Guard pilot saves the military $2 million compared to an Air Force pilot, based on salaries. They wrote to congressional leaders that the Air National Guard provides 35 percent of the Air Force's capability at 6 percent of the cost.

David Quam, NGA federal relations director, told HuffPost that the group plans to work with Congress to identify ways to restore the Air National Guard funding. He said the concern for states is primarily the Air National Guard and that Army and Navy budget plans involving the National Guard have not been released. He said since the Air National Guard plays the dual role in domestic emergency management and overseas military operations -- including in Afghanistan and Iraq -- the cuts should be changed.

"It basically has become the A-team for the military and governors," Quam told HuffPost.

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