CHICAGO – Gov. Rod Blagojevich requested today that Attorney General Lisa Madigan advise as to whether Illinois National Guard facilities can be closed or relocated during the upcoming round of base closures and, if not, what legal steps should be taken to prevent such closures. This request is aimed at bolstering the Governor’s continuing efforts to ensure that Illinois is doing everything possible to prevent its military bases from being closed. Recently, several members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stating that pursuant to 10 U.S.C. 18238(e), he is prohibited from closing or relocating any Army or Air Force National Guard installations without the consent of the state governor. Peoria Mayor David Ransburg and Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin joined Gov. Blagojevich in this request.
“With less than one month before the Department of Defense releases its list of military bases targeted for closure, I am continuing to explore all conceivable options to keep all Illinois bases open. That is why I, along with Mayor Ransburg and Mayor Davlin, am asking Attorney General Madigan to advise whether the federal government can shut down or relocate the Peoria and Springfield Air National Guard Bases as part of the BRAC process without my consent and what legal options are available if this can’t be done. Through our coordinated campaign here in Illinois, we are sending a very clear message to Washington that all our bases should continue serving our country with distinction and are poised to take on additional operations,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
Gov. Blagojevich has been spearheading the effort, along with the Illinois Congressional delegation and state and local officials, to keep all Illinois bases open and off the federal Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) list. He recently traveled to the Pentagon to meet with Lt. Gen. Daniel James III, the Director of the Air National Guard. Earlier this month, the Governor signed Executive Order No. 2005-4 directing all State land-use planning agencies to coordinate with Illinois military installations in order to maintain and improve the bases’ immense military value. When land-use planning is coordinated with these military bases, it can provide key assistance in preserving available land for military readiness. The order ensures that when the Department of Defense (DOD) comes to Illinois seeking to expand, the state stands ready and willing to meet its needs. The DOD will publicly release its list of targeted bases on May 16th. The BRAC commission will release its findings in September.
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.