SPRINGFIELD - Arriving at the Springfield 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 Blagojevich gathered with local leaders to express his deep disappointment with the Defense Department’s recommendations and vowed to keep vigorously fighting to keep the 170th Fighter Squadron in Springfield at the 183rd Fighter Wing. The U.S. Department of Defense recommended relocating the squadron’s F-16 aircraft and crews to the 122nd Fighter Wing in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. According to the Illinois National Guard, this recommendation could cost the Springfield Base more than 600 jobs – including full-time and part-time positions. About 400 jobs could remain.
The Department of Defense also recommends the 183rd Fighter Wing’s expeditionary combat support elements, the Illinois Air National Guard State Headquarters and the 217th Engineering Installation Squadron remain in place in Springfield. Additionally, the Department recommends relocating about 22 intermediate maintenance personnel from five air reserve units around the nation to Capital, establishing a Centralized Intermediate Repair Facility at in Springfield for F-110 engines in F-16 aircraft.
Gov. Blagojevich thanked the airmen and women at the Springfield ANGB for their service and dedication. 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 Springfield ANGB and Illinois’ other bases from ending up on the Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list that will be announced in September. The Springfield Air National Guard Base contributes more than $60 million to the state’s economy each year and supports more than 1,000 full and part-time jobs.
"While I’m deeply disappointed with the Defense Department’s recommendation for the Springfield Air National Guard Base, these dedicated workers and the entire community can rest assured that this battle is not over. Springfield offers unique training opportunities for our military that are second to none and a highly strategic location for homeland security missions for both Illinois and the entire Midwest. Thanks to the efforts of the State, the Congressional Delegation and the local community, we have a very strong argument that Springfield ANGB has tremendous military value. We have already taken our compelling case to Washington and the Pentagon, and we are going to do the same with the BRAC Commission. We won’t rest until this mission is accomplished," 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 Springfield ANGB’s retention and expansion. Those efforts include:
· To help ensure the state made the strongest case possible from the outset to save the Springfield ANGB, Gov. Blagojevich hired a military affairs specialist to help present the base’s compelling case to Department of the 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, Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin was also invited on the trip by the Governor and was 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.
· Gov. Blagojevich has worked closely with the Illinois National Guard to ensure the military value of the Springfield ANGB is being maximized.
Gov. Blagojevich is continuing the strong partnerships that have existed between the State of Illinois, the Congressional Delegation and the local community to preserve and strengthen the Springfield Air National Guard Base and will keep working to let the Commission know that Illinois will assist in any way possible to bring new missions to the base.
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.
The Commission will publicly release its BRAC report by September 8th and will send it to President Bush. The President has until September 23rd to approve or disapprove the list. The BRAC list must then be sent to Congress by November 7th, who must also approve or disapprove the list.