by Congresswoman Candice Miller
On April 18, 1775, 237 years ago, Paul Revere rode through the Massachusetts countryside announcing that the British were coming. In response to that call, citizens of the militia, the Minutemen, came forward from their homes to face the strongest army in the world because of their belief in the cause of liberty. This idea of the citizen militia dedicated to defending freedom has been the basis of the defense of America from our founding. Today, this dedication still burns brightly, embodied by the men and women who serve the cause of freedom in the U.S. National Guard.
Only since World War II has our nation maintained a large standing army, but the Guard has been the constant defenders of freedom throughout our entire history. In every conflict since the revolution, the contribution of the Guard has been indispensible. Since Sept. 11, 2001, members of the Guard have stood shoulder to shoulder with their active duty counterparts to make certain that America could fight its enemies across the globe while also valiantly performing their responsibilities to defend our homeland and respond to disasters.
We all understand the dire fiscal situation our nation finds itself today, and cost efficiencies must be found throughout the federal budget, including the Department of Defense. The Air Force recently released its proposed budget for fiscal year 2013 that includes draconian cuts to the Air National Guard across the nation. If implemented, these cuts would eliminate the 107th Fighter Squadron of the Michigan Air National Guard based at Selfridge, which flies A-10 ground attack aircraft. The 107th recently returned from Afghanistan where they performed brilliantly supporting our forces fighting the Taliban and al-Qaida. Other elements of the Michigan Air Guard would also be impacted across the state, totaling a net loss of more than 800 jobs, according to Air Force estimates.
The Air Force is asking the Air Guard to absorb fully 59 percent of the aircraft cuts, even though the Air Guard currently represents 35 percent of our air capability while only accounting for 6 percent of the budget. So in order to meet its budget targets, the Air Force is proposing massive cuts to the most cost effective part of the force. I do not oppose these cuts out of parochial interests about job losses here in Michigan, but because they simply do not make any sense from a budgetary or a readiness perspective.
Since the announcement of these proposed cuts, 49 governors and every adjutant general of the National Guard in America has written to the secretary of defense, urging reconsideration of these cuts. I am proud to say that Gov. Rick Snyder and Maj. Gen. Greg Vadnais of the Michigan National Guard have been at the forefront of this fight.
Now the effort to reverse these cuts moves to Congress, and I am pleased to report that I recently led the effort to organize each of the members from Michigan in the House of Representatives to urge a thorough review of these cuts by our colleagues who sit on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. It is my hope that members of these committees will ask the tough questions of Air Force leaders and continue the effort to roll back this policy, which is fiscally indefensible and would harm the end strength of our air capability.
Last year, I helped lead the fight to give the commanding general of the National Guard a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. That was an effort that leaders of the active duty services opposed, but was approved because the people’s representatives understood the important role the Guard plays in our national defense and they deserved a seat at the table. We can and must win this fight also.
While the administration has said that it would demand shared sacrifice to meet tight budgets, its proposed cuts fall too dramatically on the Air Guard. These cuts must be reversed so that we can maintain the best defense our nation has had since our founding: the citizen soldiers of the Guard. Just as the Minutemen rose to defend our freedom in the revolution, it is now time for members of Congress to hear the Minuteman call and rise up to defend the Guard.
Member of Congress
U.S. Representative Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, represents Michigan’s 10th Congressional District.