PEORIA - Arriving at the Peoria Air National Guard Base on the day the U.S. Department of Defense released its list of military installations recommended for closure or realignment, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich gathered with local leaders to deliver the news that the base will, as it has for nearly 60 years, continue defending our country. Gov. Blagojevich also thanked the airmen and women at the Peoria ANGB for their service and dedication and reaffirmed his commitment to helping secure additional missions for the base. The Governor has been leading a coordinated effort for more than two years with the Illinois Congressional Delegation, other elected officials and local leaders to prevent the Peoria ANGB and Illinois’ other bases from ending up on the Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list that will be announced in September. The Peoria Air National Guard Base contributes more than $50 million to the state’s economy each year and supports nearly 1,200 jobs.
"This is an important day for our entire state because the Peoria Air National Guard Base will continue ensuring that our homeland is safe and secure. We traveled to Washington numerous times to meet with top Pentagon leaders and highlighted this base’s tremendous military value because we know protecting this base is the right decision for the United States and Illinois. From missions in Iraq and Afghanistan to humanitarian assignments across the globe, the 182nd Airlift Wing and all of its dedicated and brave members make us proud every day. But our coordinated campaign with the Illinois Congressional delegation, state and local officials isn't over yet. We must and will continue presenting our compelling case to the BRAC Commission and the Department of Defense about why the Peoria ANGB must remain open and why it is poised for expansion," Gov. Blagojevich said.
U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and many other state and local officials joined Gov. Blagojevich at the announcement.
Since the earliest days of his administration, Gov. Blagojevich has relentlessly advocated for the Peoria Air National Guard Base retention and expansion. Those efforts include:
· To help ensure the state made the strongest case possible from the outset to save the Peoria ANGB, Gov. Blagojevich hired a military affairs specialist to help present the base’s compelling case to the Department of Defense.
· On December 2, 2004, Gov. Blagojevich traveled to the Pentagon to meet with Lt. Gen. Daniel James III, the Director of the Air National Guard.
· On December 14, 2004, Gov. Blagojevich sent Administration officials to Washington, DC for an important meeting with Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Installations Phil Grone, the Pentagon’s point person on base closings. As part of a comprehensive partnership, the former Mayor of Peoria David Ransburg and Heartland Partnership President Jim McConoughey were also invited by the Governor on the trip and were in attendance.
· On April 6, 2005, Gov. Blagojevich 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. The order ensures that when the Department of Defense comes to Illinois seeking to expand, the state stands ready and willing to meet its needs.
· Working closely with the Illinois National Guard to ensure the military value of the Peoria ANGB is being maximized.
· Gov. Blagojevich has led Illinois’ efforts to ensure airmen and women at Peoria ANGB enjoy the highest quality of life in the military.
With a nearly 60-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 BRAC Commission will submit its closure recommendations to the President by September 8th. President Bush has until September 23rd to accept or reject the recommendations in their entirety. The President then must submit the list to Congress by November 7th, who must also approve or disapprove the list in its entirety.