WASHINGTON, D.C. —U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined seven senators on a letter sent this week to the Air Force urging the placement of additional C-27J aircraft for the 179th Airlift Wing based at Mansfield Air National Guard Base (ANGB.) Under the current proposal, the Mansfield ANGB—along with eight other bases around the country—will house four operational C-27J aircraft. However, Brown is concerned that in a time of war, four aircraft will not be sufficient for home station training and homeland security functions, and requests that the Air Force develop an alternative plan that would deliver additional aircraft to each base.
“With our nation still engaged in two wars, now is not the time to skimp on C-27J aircraft housed at Mansfield ANGB or at any other base across the country,” Brown said. “The 179th Airlift Wing continues to play a vital role in our country’s national security, and these brave men and women must have the equipment and resources necessary to do their job and protect our nation.”
In the letter, sent to Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz and Chief of the National Guard Bureau Craig McKinley, Brown and the seven senators call the current proposal “unworkable” and “unacceptable.” The senators suggest that the Air Force purchase enough additional aircraft—increasing the Air Force’s procurement from 38 to 42 aircraft—to supply each of the eight bases with six aircraft apiece. Alternatively, the senators suggest, the Air Force could deliver one additional aircraft to each base under the current purchase level of 38 planes, with one aircraft left unassigned.
“The operations tempo expected of these aircraft is high, with perhaps 16 of the 38 aircraft in the inventory estimated to be in theater at any given time. Despite this high level of need, the deployment strategy for these aircraft is not yet clear. We presume, however, that when needed overseas, at least two aircraft from each base will be forward deployed,” the senators wrote. “With one aircraft expected in some level of maintenance at any given time, only one aircraft would be available for home station training and homeland security functions.”
Brown visited the Mansfield base in August 2010 to celebrate a new mission for the 179th Airlift Wing. The 179th Airlift Wing recently became a Joint Air-Army base with the addition of the Army Ohio National Guard's new fire station in May 2010. In 2005, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) recommended that the 179th Airlift Wing be dismantled. The base’s service record, along with actions taken by the Ohio Congressional delegation, kept the base open and transformed it into a joint base. Brown has worked with the White House, Administration officials and Air Force and National Guard personnel to secure the new mission for the Mansfield ANGB.
In addition to Brown, the letter was signed by Senators Jon Tester (D-MT), Max Baucus (D-MT), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Joe Lieberman (D-CT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Kent Conrad (D-ND.) The full letter to the Air Force is below.
June 27, 2011
Dear General Schwartz and Director McKinley:
We write to express our concern with the Air National Guard’s current C-27J basing proposal. Under the current bed-down proposal, eight bases will bed-down four operational aircraft while one base will support four operational and two training aircraft.
We are deeply concerned that this proposal is unworkable and will limit our Air National Guard units’ ability to train effectively and provide the homeland security capabilities that our states expect with the delivery of these aircraft. The operations tempo expected of these aircraft is high, with perhaps 16 of the 38 aircraft in the inventory estimated to be in theater at any given time. Despite this high level of need, the deployment strategy for these aircraft is not yet clear. We presume, however, that when needed overseas, at least two aircraft from each base will be forward deployed. With one aircraft expected in some level of maintenance at any given time, only one aircraft would be available for home station training and homeland security functions. This is unacceptable.
Recently the Adjutants General of the seven states programmed to receive the C-27 sent a letter to Congressional leadership on both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. They expressed similar training and operational concerns, with special emphasis that the current C-27J force structure will weaken our national and homeland defense. They advocate increasing the buy from 38 to 42 aircraft, and in turn asking Congress to then direct 6 aircraft to each of the previously identified seven states. From their point of view, this would allow each C-27J unit to successfully fulfill its stateside role of homeland defense and disaster response, while maintaining their training requirements and desired war-time commitments. We support this recommendation for obvious reasons.
Another alternate within the constraints of the 38 programmed aircraft would be to increase the bed-down authorization at each installation by one aircraft, thus allowing for additional home-station training and homeland security needs. We recognize that this arrangement would leave one aircraft unassigned, but we are confident that you would develop a logical plan for that aircraft. This arrangement would not compromise operational capability – in fact we believe this approach would improve such capability – and could be accomplished with only minimal disruption to the existing basing plan. Further, this arrangement would not prevent the identification of additional C-27J bases should the requirement for additional aircraft increase.
We appreciate your consideration of this important request and we look forward to working with you to ensure that the Air Force’s tactical airlift needs and those of our states’ homeland security requirements can best be met as our units transition to the C-27J mission.