Governor Branstad says he’ll lobby Pentagon officials directly later this month to try to keep an Iowa Air Guard operation in Des Moines from being closed.
“I think it’s a big mistake,” Branstad told reporters this morning. “This fighter unit in Des Moines has had a tremendous record of service and they’re outstanding and, as I understand it, they’re the only fighter wing in the country that’s being targeted to be replaced.”
The Air Force is recommending the 132nd Fighter Wing be “decommissioned” as part of Pentagon budget-cutting plans. Twenty F-16 fighters jets and nearly one-thousand Guard members work in the unit, which is based in Des Moines. Branstad is co-chair of a governors’ group that meets with Pentagon officials to discuss issues surrounding national security and operation of the state-level National Guard units.
“I think they’re making a mistake,” Branstad said. “I think they ought to take another look at it. I intend to work with our congressional delegation.”
This past Friday members of Iowa’s congressional delegation issued stern statements about the shut-down plan. Congressman Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Des Moines who is a veteran, vowed to fight “tooth and nail” to reverse the Pentagon decision. Congressman Tom Latham, a Republican from Clive, questioned why Pentagon chief would consider decommissioning this “consistently high performing unit.” And Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, said Iowans should know this is “by no means a final decision about this unit.”
Governor Branstad is also working on a bipartisan basis with Iowa and Illinois congressman to try to keep the Rock Island Arsenal from being targeted for closure.
“Obviously with a major reduction in defense spending that the country’s faced with, there’s concerns about a lot of things,” Branstad said. “And we certainly are concerned about this one.”
The Rock Island Arsenal is the largest employer in the Quad Cities, with more than 8600 people woking at jobs connected to the arsenal.