HARRISON TWP. (WWJ/AP) - The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee eliminated proposed Air National Guard cuts Thursday that would have cost Michigan bases hundreds of jobs, said chairman Carl Levin.
The $631 billion annual Pentagon budget bill the committee unanimously approved “rejects proposals to eliminate Air National Guard aircraft and personnel, including proposed cuts at Michigan bases,” the Michigan Democrat’s office said in a statement. The full Senate next takes up the bill.
Under the Obama administration’s proposal, Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Macomb County’s Harrison Township near Mount Clemens would have lost an A-10 fighter jet unit. The Pentagon’s budget plan also called for cutting C-27J cargo planes, which would have been replaced with a unit flying MQ-1 and MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicles, at Battle Creek Air National Guard Base.
“The Air National Guard performs an extremely important function, and its capabilities should not be casually or precipitously changed,” Levin said. “The Air Force proposal, which disproportionately affected the Air National Guard, was ill-conceived and unjustified. Our bill rejects the Air Force’s proposal and takes steps to prevent a repeat of such poorly thought-out proposals.”
The $631 billion in the budget bill for next year is the same amount President Barack Obama requested.
Rather than eliminate Air National Guard programs, the bill calls for creation of a National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force to report to Congress by March 31, 2013, on possible operations and base changes.
The commission would have four members appointed by the president and four appointed by the leadership of the Senate and House armed services committees.
“I am very pleased the jobs of the hundreds of men and women serving in Michigan will be preserved,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan.
U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, a Republican from Harrison Township where Selfridge is located, praised the move to block the National Guard cuts and thanked Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., for sponsoring the amendment to do so.
“It’s unfortunate that the Air Force and the secretary of defense would not work with 49 governors (and others) to find a balanced approach to making needed cuts in the Pentagon’s budget,” Miller said.