CHICAGO – Attorney General Lisa Madigan, on behalf of Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich, today filed an emergency appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit of yesterday’s decision that dismissed the Governor’s lawsuit to stop U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) from moving F-16 aircraft from and otherwise realigning 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, violates federal law, which dictates that the Governor must give his consent for this type of realignment. This latest legal action follows a lawsuit that was filed in federal court on July 21st seeking to block the Pentagon’s initial recommendation.
“We will not be deterred in our mission to ensure the safety and security of Illinois and the rest of our country because we have the facts and common sense on our side. Not only is this recommendation illegal and a waste of $10 million, but taking these F-16s out of Springfield will compromise our national and homeland security at a time when this is supposed to be America’s top priority. This is a completely indefensible decision that the Pentagon and the BRAC Commission has never and will never be able to justify,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
“The 183rd Fighter Wing may currently be the focus of a complicated court battle, but we cannot lose sight of its critical importance to the everyday safety and security of Illinois and the nation,” Attorney General Madigan said. “I am filing this emergency appeal on behalf of the Governor because he has not consented to the effective elimination of the 183rd Fighter Wing and, without his consent, BRAC’s recommendation is unlawful.”
Legal counsel for the BRAC Commission recently issued a memo in which he fully agreed with the legal arguments that Gov. Blagojevich and Attorney General Madigan have 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.
In Connecticut, a federal judge agreed to issue a preliminary injunction on the recommendation to move or retire planes from a fighter wing there. And in Pennsylvania, a judge agreed with the governor that the military needs his permission to dissolve an Air Guard unit.
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 Air Force’s own analysis also shows that taking the F-16s out of Springfield will actually cost the taxpayers $10 million and will never produce any savings.
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, who must also approve or disapprove the list.