Cantwell Calls on BRAC Commission to Protect Northwest Air Space
BRAC Commission plan threatens to move fighter jets to East Coast
WASHINGTON , D.C. – Today U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell called on the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission to reconsider the Pentagon's recommendation to relocate Portland-based fighter jets that patrol Washington state airspace. The Pentagon recommended moving all fifteen F-15 fighters of the 142 nd Air National Guard fighter wing to New Jersey and Lousiana, the same jets that patrolled the North west skies for three days after the September 11 th terrorist attacks.
"This plan overlooks the critical role these jets play in ensuring the security of the Pacific North west and our nation," Cantwell said. "We should not let our guard down when it comes to defending our citizens against terrorist attacks."
Last night, Cantwell (D-WA) met with Washington Air National Guard Commander Frank Scoggins, who shares her concerns.
"The realignments proposed for air assets in the State of Washington and the North west will have negative impacts on the protection of our homeland," Commander Scoggins said. "The proposal would have serious unintended long term consequences if fully adopted."
Cantwell worries that moving the F-15s from Portland will result in slower response times to the North west; as the closest permanent fighter wing capable of responding to airborne security threats could be based as far away as Fresno, California.
In a letter to BRAC Commission Chairman Anthony Principi, Cantwell wrote, "In the midst of another attack on our homeland, fighters would have to be quickly scrambled from more distant bases, possibly compromising the security of major population centers and other high value targets along America's west coast."
On Friday, the BRAC Commission will meet in Portland to consider the Pentagon's recommendations, including the realignment of the F-15 fighters.
In her letter, Cantwell also asked the commission to reconsider the recommended realignment of tankers that provide refueling support to the F-15 fighter jets and other military aircraft. Eight tankers of the 939 th Air Force Reserve refueling wing based in Portland and all eight of the tankers assigned to the 141 st Air National Guard wing at Fairchild Air Force Base would be realigned.
The loss of the National Guard tankers at Fairchild will leave Washington state without an Air National Guard flying unit assigned with aircraft, reducing the emergency response capabilities currently available to the Governor.
The letter follows below:
June 15, 2005
2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission 2521 S. Clark St., Ste. 600 Arlington, VA 22202
Dear Chairman Principi,
First, allow us to thank you for your work on the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. The task before you and the commission is an important and arduous one. Your willingness to serve our nation in this capacity is appreciated.
We believe that the Defense Secretary's recommendations largely recognize the important military assets we have in the North west. The combination of our distinctive geography, unique military assets and dedicated servicemen and servicewomen, position the Pacific North west well in the critical protection of our homeland.
However, we are concerned about the proposed realignment of important Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve assets away from the Pacific North west . The Department of Defense has recommended the realignment of all 15 F-15 fighters of the 142 nd Air National Guard (ANG) fighter wing based at Portland International Airport (PDX). Additionally, the Pentagon has recommend the realignment of 8 tankers of the 939 th Air Force Reserve refueling wing based at PDX and all eight of the tankers assigned to the 141 st ANG wing at Fairchild Air Force Base.
These realignments overlook the critical role these air assets play in ensuring the security of the Pacific North west and our nation. For more than three days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the fighters of the 142 nd ANG wing provided 24-hour air patrols over population centers, major military bases, and other high value targets across a three state region. The patrols helped protect our citizens and provided invaluable security in the very uncertain hours after the terrorist attacks on our nation. The nation continues to require a comparable level of responsiveness to counter potential threats to its North west region.
If implemented, the Secretary's recommendations would greatly limit this homeland security capability for our nation. While the Secretary's recommendations would maintain the alert component at PDX through the rotation of fighters from distant bases -- no fighters would be permanently based in Portland . In the midst of another attack on our homeland, fighters would have to be quickly scrambled from more distant bases, possibly compromising the security of major population centers and other high value targets along America's west coast.
We also are concerned about the proposed realignment of eight ANG air refueling tankers assigned to the 141st ANG wing at Fairchild Air Force Base and eight additional tankers assigned to the 939 th Air Force Reserve Wing at PDX. Air refueling tankers are vital assets in the rapid projection of forces around the world and have played critical roles in past and present military operations. If implemented, the number of active duty, guard, and reserve air refueling tankers in the North west will have been reduced by more than 50 percent since the terrorist attacks of September 11th. These reductions will strain force projection capabilities, limit Air National Guard training capacity, increase the average time to run sorties throughout the Pacific Rim, and will reduce available air refueling capabilities.
In addition to compromising our Homeland Security, the proposed realignments would reduce the important connectivity of the Air National Guard to the citizens and communities of each state. Currently, each of the 50 States have a unit equipped Air National Guard Wing within their borders. Implementing the Department of Defense's proposed plan would leave seven states, including three western states, without a unit equipped ANG flying unit. Enactment of this plan would have the unintended consequences of reducing the historic and philosophical connectivity of the National Guard to the citizens of affected States and would also reduce the emergency response capabilities currently available to Governors.
With these issues in mind, we respectfully request that you carefully examine the realignment of these air assets, in light of their recent critical role in meeting emerging security requirements. Like the Commission, we want to ensure that our nation is well positioned to protect itself from threats, both foreign and domestic. Our military assets in the North west remain well positioned to protect the homeland and to help ensure the national security of the United States. We hope to work with you to implement the current base realignment and closure round to ensure the improved security of our great nation.
Maria Cantwell United States Senator Patty Murray United States Senator Norm Dicks Member of Congress Jim McDermott Member of Congress Cathy McMorris Member of Congress Brian Baird Member of Congress Rick Larsen Member of Congress Doc Hastings Member of Congress Adam Smith Member of Congress Jay Inslee Member of Congress Dave Reichert Member of Congress
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