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Closing the Air National Guard Base at PDX - YES!

write to  letters@news.oregonian.com if you agree with me that this base should be closed. Portland is about peace, not fighter jets. Join me.
Close the Air National Guard Base at PDX - go Rumsfeld, finally I agree with you
Close the Air National Guard Base at PDX - go Rumsfeld, finally I agree with you
 link to www.oregonlive.com

Base vital to region's defenses, panel told
Oregon officials appear to score points, saying loss of Portland's Air Guard unit wouldn't save money and would leave the area too vulnerable
Saturday, June 18, 2005

HARRY ESTEVE


The Pentagon's plan to move an Oregon Air National Guard fighter jet squadron out of Portland would tear a dangerous hole in the nation's antiterrorism network and put millions of Pacific Northwest residents at risk, Oregon's governor and congressional representatives warned a federal panel Friday.

Not only that, they said, the move wouldn't save taxpayers any money, which was one of the main reasons the Pentagon gave in proposing the move.

"It looks like we're tacking up a vacancy sign on our air base and putting out a welcome mat for our enemies," Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., said during a four-hour hearing in Portland before the Base Closure and Realignment Commission.

The comments were part of a political full-court press to save the jet squadron and the hundreds of jobs attached to it.

After the hearing, commission Chairman Anthony Principi suggested the elected officials may have scored some points.

"We have real questions with regard to some of the recommendations as they apply to the Air National Guard," Principi said.

As part of a sweeping military streamlining proposal by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Portland-based 142nd Fighter Wing would lose its 18 F-15 fighter jets to bases in New Jersey and Louisiana. Eight KC-135 refueling jets, also based in Portland, would be split between bases in Oklahoma and Kansas.

The Portland base would lose 452 civilian and 112 military employees. It also stands to lose about 1,200 part-time Guard airmen and reservists, who would report to other units.

The idea is to reduce the number of smaller air bases scattered around the country while beefing up the capabilities at bigger bases. Rumsfeld also wants a more seamless tie between the Air Guard and the active duty Air Force.

His plan calls for stationing two Air Force jets in Portland on "alert" status, which means they could be scrambled in the event of an emergency. That's not enough to defend the Northwest's population centers, power dams, nuclear waste storage sites and other targets, Smith and others said at the hearing.

"Stripping the Pacific Northwest of this vital defense capability will leave Oregon and the rest of the Pacific Northwest dangerously vulnerable to air-based threats," Gov. Ted Kulongoski told the commission. "We simply won't have the tools we need to defend this region."

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., added, "It would leave the Pacific Northwest with a Little League air defense capability."

Oregon also has a squadron of F-15 jets at an Air Guard base in Klamath Falls, but those are used for training.

The commission's role

The commission can add or subtract military bases from Rumsfeld's recommended list of closures. It is holding a series of hearings and visiting military bases around the country before giving its final recommendations to President Bush by Sept. 8.

Bush then has until Sept. 23 to pass the list on to Congress, which must accept or reject it in its entirety.

The panel will take a hard look at plans to merge Air Guard units into larger Air Force bases, Principi said.

"We need to see what the impact of doing that is to the Air National Guard and their ability to respond in the event of an emergency," he said.

In past rounds of base closures, the commission has adopted 80 percent to 90 percent of the Pentagon's recommendations. "We're not a rubber stamp for the Defense Department," Principi said.

Nearly every state, along with nearly every congressional delegation, is making the same pitch: Don't close our military bases. But most make the argument on economic grounds, based on the number of job losses. The Oregon contingent hammered on the public safety and national security issues.

The issue of savings

The group also argued that the Pentagon wouldn't save money in Oregon considering the cost of moving the planes, training new pilots and keeping the two Air Force alert jets ready. Furthermore, the officials said, the military recently spent $60 million renovating the Portland air base, an investment that would be wasted if the planes go elsewhere.

"I think there's a better than 50-50 chance this will be reversed," said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.
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Col. Brad Applegate, commander of the Portland jet squadron, told the panel that the Pentagon erred when it proposed taking the planes out of Oregon. It based its decision primarily on cost savings and its desire to reorganize the Air Force, without factoring in the Guard's role in preventing or responding to terrorist attacks.

"It's clear the Department of Defense recommendation completely disregarded homeland defense," Applegate said as a screen displayed a U.S. map that showed most areas protected by air bases but the Northwest conspicuously empty.

Fears for safety

Later, Applegate told reporters that he would have real fears for Oregon's safety if the jets are moved out of state. "My family's here," he said. "My kids are here. We know the risks are off the charts, and we can't stand it."

Delegations from Washington, Montana and Idaho, including Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, also made a case for keeping their military installations intact. The overall theme of the presentations, which included detailed maps and diagrams of jet response times, was one of leaving a corner of the country unprotected.

Under the current system, Air Guard jets from Portland can reach Seattle in 12 minutes, according to a presentation by Maj. Gen. Frank Scoggins, deputy commander of the Washington National Guard. The next closest fighter jets with homeland defense missions are more than an hour away in California, Scoggins said.

Scoggins also said the Pentagon may be causing an unintended public relations problem with its base closure plan, particularly as it affects the National Guard. By moving Air Guard units out of some states and centralizing them at bigger bases, "you disconnect citizens from the Air Force," he said.

Harry Esteve: 503-221-8226;  harryesteve@news.oregonian.com

This is worrisome 18.Jun.2005 19:10

nutcase # 22

Call me paranoid, you won't be the first or last. Here's my knee jerk reaction:

1) PDX is a problem town to the Neocon Cabal. We withdrew local cooperation from the JTTF, for example. When Richard Perle comes to town, he gets shoes thrown at him. Etc

2) The Neos are losing their grip. They need an "incident" to bring the sheeple back into line.

3) The Neos relocate significant military assets away from the PDX area in a move which seems to make no sense at all

4) Don't we sound like a ripe target to you? So, say there is some kind of catastrophe here. The Neos can say "See what happens when you don;t cooperate? The "terrorists" would never have gotten to Portland if they had only cooperated with DHS..." They can shout "Remember Portland!" as they drive into Iran with guns blazing...and look, how lucky that Donnie moved the planes!

Hardly matters 18.Jun.2005 22:45

Bison Boy

Probably the threat to move them is a political lever. If DoD thinks their location here is strategically important, then it's a bluff. If DoD doesn't think they need to be in Portland, then it doesn't really matter much if the airbase is moved. (I don't think the DoD will disband the fighter wing, so they'll have to be based somewhere.)

I think Portland is a good strategic location for a fighter base, in that F-15s based there can reasonably offer defense for the entire Pacific Northwest. However, the F-15s can only protect us against a pretty small range of threats. A hijacking-crash scenario is likely to play itself out before the jets could respond no matter where they are based. Very few nations can get an aircraft carrier or long-range bomber in range of our coast, let alone undetected and with hostile intent. Same goes for cruise missiles.

If they stay, fine. If they go, there's not much reason to worry.

response to closure of PANG 25.Aug.2005 07:28

oregon grown

ok, first to all of you who haven't a clue to how important PANG is to Oregon let alone the West coast, wake up and get a clue. Do you even have any idea how many times in the last 10 years the jets were "scrambled" because of some unknown reason. I do. No you dont, because the government doesnt disclose all of this, otherwise we would most likely end up panicking. maybe we should disclose this info just so you out there who believe we are safe from harms way would wake up and realize this is a "ALL 50 state issue" and not just New York, or LA or Chicagos problem. The people of Oregon want to keep security here if for nothing else ease of mind, but many do-gooders usually from the ever evolving liberal city of Portland feel that we are a "Peace loving community" and like certain city leaders (thank god i am not from Portland so i dont have to deal with this person) feel we dont need protection. First its Homeland security and now PANG. PANG is the only base on the West Coast that offers military protection against unknown threats. If we close this base, be assured that the Pacific coast line would be in deep jeopardy. Sure, eventually the jets would be scrambled from other bases to thwart off anybody or thing, but possibly not before or quick enough to help us. Just think about it, or we might end up like NY where they thought nothing could happen to them either...Food for thought