States, feds clash over Guard
Governors sue over closure and transfer plans that would affect one-third of Air National Guard units.
When the Pentagon released its list of bases to be realigned this year, it contained a message - unwritten but obvious - to Gov. Kenny Guinn: Nevada doesn't need the eight planes of its National Guard anymore. According to the plan, the C-130 transports now sitting on the tarmac in Reno should be sent to Arkansas, leaving the Nevada Air National Guard with no airplanes.
As commander in chief of the Nevada militia, however, Governor Guinn sees things a little differently. To him, the C-130s are a lifeline to the far-flung towns of the Nevada desert in times of flooding and fire. And when Las Vegas was tabbed as a New Year's Eve terror target, they were a central element of emergency planning.
Yet now, the Pentagon's desire to consolidate more aircraft at fewer locations points to a historic reorganization of the Air National Guard. Like Nevada, several other states face the prospect of losing all their National Guard planes, and some governors have gone so far as to sue the Pentagon - insisting that National Guard aircraft have a unique state function.
The Pentagon's aims are not without merit, many analysts say, and it owns the aircraft. Yet as the base-closing process grinds toward its late-summer deadline, National Guard officials - as well as committee members themselves - are raising questions about the plan, concerned that the scope of the changes could undermine the Air National Guard and homeland security.
The course of the Iraq war has helped shape "a well-articulated public debate" about the needs of the Army National Guard, says John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org. "But there has not been a similar discussion about the Air National Guard until now. This is the first time it has come into play."