SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a motion for a temporary restraining order in federal court today to stop U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) from moving F-16 aircrafts from the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield. Gov. Blagojevich and Attorney General Madigan have said that the Pentagon’s May 13th recommendation, which the BRAC Commission also endorsed last week, violates federal law, which dictates that he must give his consent for this type of realignment. Attorney General Madigan filed the motion for a temporary restraining order on behalf of the Governor in United States District Court for the Central Division of Illinois, Springfield Division. This latest legal action follows a lawsuit that was filed in federal court on July 21st blocking the Pentagon’s initial recommendation.
“In these very uncertain times, any actions that would threaten our homeland security would be a grave mistake. There is absolutely no way to justify taking these F-16s out of Springfield. This indefensible decision will leave our country more vulnerable to attack and cost our taxpayers $10 million. It is the wrong recommendation, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons and there is absolutely no doubt that it is illegal. That is why we are back in federal court today seeking to immediately halt this action,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
“We are taking this action because I am concerned that by disbanding the 183rd Air Wing, we are diminishing the ability of the Air National Guard to respond to homeland security threats, civil emergencies and natural disasters,” Attorney General Madigan said. “A Pennsylvania court concluded that the Secretary of Defense cannot deactivate a National Guard unit without the Governor's consent. The same reasoning should apply to the claim we are bringing, and I trust that the District Court in Illinois will declare the deactivation of the 183rd Air Wing illegal and in violation of federal law.”
Legal counsel for the BRAC Commission recently issued a memo in which he fully agreed with the legal arguments that the State of Illinois has been making all along. BRAC Deputy General Counsel Dan Cowhig wrote that no change in the organizational structure of an Air National Guard Unit can take place without the consent of the state’s governor.
The Springfield Air National Guard Base 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. Illinois is also home to 11 nuclear power plants that provide 50 percent of our power generation. Further, Illinois has 28 locks and dams on the Illinois, Mississippi and Ohio rivers. If these recommendations are adopted, these vital assets, and many others, will be at greater risk without the F-16s in Springfield. This would also leave Illinois with only two Air National Guard flying units, which is the same number as several states with much smaller populations, including Alaska, Arkansas and Hawaii.
The Governor has been leading a coordinated effort for nearly three years with the Illinois Congressional Delegation, other elected officials and local leaders to prevent Illinois’ military bases from ending up on the BRAC list. He consistently has stressed that these actions are a threat to our national and homeland security and are not cost effective.
The Commission must publicly release its final 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, which is given the opportunity to disprove the list through a joint resolution.