WASHINGTON, DC – Gov. Rod Blagojevich sent Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Director Jack Lavin to Washington, DC today for an important meeting with the Pentagon’s point person on base closings to present Illinois’ compelling case for why the state’s bases should continue serving our country with distinction. Director Lavin, along with local officials from St. Clair County and the Quad Cities, met with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Installations Phil Grone to highlight why the Scott Air Force Base and the Rock Island Arsenal should not end up on the Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list and to explain why both are ripe for expansion. This follows a similar meeting with Assistant Secretary Grone in December with DCEO officials and a delegation from Springfield and Peoria to discuss the merits of the Air National Guard bases in those cities. Gov. Blagojevich was also recently in Washington, DC for a series of meetings on this issue. The Governor is leading a coordinated effort with the Illinois Congressional Delegation, other elected officials and local leaders to prevent any of these bases from ending up on the BRAC list. These bases contribute more than $2.5 billion to the state’s economy each year and support nearly 70,000 jobs.
“Scott Air Force Base, Rock Island Arsenal and the Air National Guard Bases in Peoria and Springfield all play critical roles in ensuring the safety and security of our country, while making enormous contributions to our state’s economy,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We will continue with our coordinated campaign, working closely with House Speaker Hastert, Senator Durbin and many others, because too much is at stake to leave anything to chance. These bases not only have everything the military requires to continue meeting its goals efficiently and effectively, but they are all also fully capable of expanding their missions to meet the Defense Department’s changing goals and priorities.”
Rock Island Mayor Mark Schwiebert, Quad Cities Development Group President Thom Hart, Rock Island County Board Chair James Bohnsack, St. Clair County Board Chair Mark Kern and Leadership Council Southwest Illinois Executive Director Jim Pennekamp joined Director Lavin at the meeting.
“Gov. Blagojevich understands what is at stake, which is why we are here today with our local partners to reinforce the very simple message that Scott Air Force Base and the Rock Island Arsenal, as well as our Air National Guard bases, are too important to close and are primed to play even greater roles in defending our country. The Governor will not rest until this mission is accomplished,” DCEO Director Jack Lavin said.
Under BRAC, an independent commission evaluates the Pentagon’s closure recommendations and then develops a final list of bases to be closed. Congress then has the option to approve or reject the list as submitted without changes. The Department of Defense will release its BRAC list on May 16.
“Gov. Blagojevich understands the importance of the Rock Island Arsenal to both the economy of our region and the security of our country. We are all working aggressively to ensure that one of our greatest assets will not only continue to exist, but act as a more dynamic engine of economic growth in our community,” Rock Island Mayor Mark Schwiebert said.
“Scott Air Force Base is vital to our nation and to our economy. Gov. Blagojevich, the Illinois Congressional delegation and our local leadership will continue our coordinated effort to convince the Pentagon that expanding, and not closing, Scott is the right decision for our country,” St. Clair County Board Chair Mark Kern said.
Scott Air Force Base is a major joint command headquarters base located in St. Clair County. It is home to the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) and the Air Mobility Command (AMC). Scott is also home to the 18th Air Force Headquarters, 375th Airlift Wing, the 932nd Reserve Airlift Wing and the 126th Air National Guard Refueling Wing. The United States Transportation Command is the largest transportation enterprise in the world. USTRANSCOM was established in 1987 and is one of nine U.S. unified commands.
As the single manager of America’s global defense transportation system, USTRANSCOM is tasked with the coordination of people and transportation assets to allow our country to project and sustain forces, whenever, wherever, and for as long as they are needed. Air Mobility Command (AMC), the air component of USTRANSCOM, is also headquartered at Scott Air Force Base. AMC has the primary mission for providing all of the armed services airlift, aerial refueling, special air missions and aeromedical evacuation. AMC also contracts and controls the command contracts for commercial airlifts for the Department of Defense. Scott is centrally located with excellent facilities that have growth capability. The construction of MidAmerica St. Louis Airport as a joint-use facility adjacent to the base added a new 10,000-foot runway, a parallel taxiway, and renovated and extended Scott’s runway to 8,000 feet. In addition, a new state-of-the-art, FAA traffic control tower was added as the last link in the ability to handle more with maximum safety.
Rock Island Arsenal is a center for logistics and sustainment excellence for the Department of Defense (DOD). It is the home to four major U.S. Army headquarters organizations that have regional and global responsibilities - ranging from Army munitions management to regional installation management. The Arsenal also houses more than 50 other DOD organizations and provides infrastructure support to all the organizations on the island. The Army's Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center - Rock Island has the technical expertise and equipment to provide full-service design and prototyping, manufacturing, and testing/simulation for a wide variety of products from rapid response to warfighter requirements for all of the Armed Services. These state-of-the-art facilities house DOD's only vertically integrated metal manufacturing complex. The Arsenal is one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturing facilities. Products include gun mounts and recoil mechanisms for artillery, spare parts, and tools, sets, kits and outfits that support military equipment in the field. This manufacturing mission has been called on to support short-notice, critical items for soldiers in the field, including armored door kits for Humvees, weapons pedestals and electronic night sights for our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. The installation has a state of the art fiber-optic network that has the capacity to double the number of users and the ability to handle twice its current amount of traffic. Through new business avenues, the Arsenal is also partnering with some non-military entities to assist and advance manufacturing technologies in the private sector.
With a 57-year history of diversity in operations, the Peoria Air National Guard Base has demonstrated a pivotal response to joint/multinational requirements, including its current involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The unit’s experience and performance in on-going airlift operations, its past experience in fighter operations, and its in-depth expertise in management and control of tactical air assets graphically reflect the reasons for the organization’s successes and the frequent recognition received by its members. A major thrust of the 182nd Airlift’s mission is to provide world-class training and readiness opportunities, not only for its own members, but for those of other organizations and other service departments as well. Superior existing facilities, expansion capability, and recruiting and retention history enable the 182nd to easily accommodate support of operations and training for contingency, mobilization and increased future total force requirements.
The Springfield Air National Guard Base provides critical support for its flying military missions, including air to air, air to ground, air support, and search and rescue teams. The unit also has several other crucial tasks from engineer and communication teams to many other one, two or 20 person teams related to different military support missions, security police and chaplains of several denominations. This unit also has firefighters with a support agreement where the U.S. Air Force provides 100 percent of the airport’s crash fire protection for both the commercial airport and the air guard. Homeland defense is also an important part of its portfolio because it serves as a back up for protecting civilian commercial aircraft for Chicago, St. Louis, Kansas City and Indianapolis. This unit is ready for the next generation of Air Force aircraft because the base has extra ramp space available.