Iowa’s political leaders say they’re united in the fight to overturn an Air Force recommendation that would cut the number of soldiers at an Iowa Air Guard unit by 39 percent.
Under the recommendation — which must be approved by congress — the 21 F-16 fighter jets at the 132nd Fighter Wing would be retired, leading to layoffs for 459 people who work at the facility, which is adjacent to the Des Moines Airport. Iowa’s governor is co-chair of the council of governors who meet regularly with Pentagon officials to discuss Guard-related matters and Tim Albrecht, a spokesman for Governor Branstad, says the governor’s using that position to mount a lobbying campaign.
“And we’re really going to engage fellow governors, adjutant generals in other states and congressional delegations from across the country to identify different cuts than this,” Albrecht says.
The adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard is talking with adjutant generals in other states, according to Albrecht, who says the governors and the top Guard officials around the country understand that “efficiencies” need to be identified.
“However, when you have the National Guard working here day-by-day, side-by-side with Iowans to address emergencies, natural disasters, etc., it is a much more efficient and effective mechanism by which to deal with emergencies rather than dealing with a federal largess bureaucracy in Washington, D.C.,” Albrecht says.
Iowa’s congressional delegation vows to try to reverse the decision when congress votes on defense-related legislation. Senator Tom Harkin calls the Iowa Air Guard force reduction “nothing short of short of unconscionable.” Senator Chuck Grassley warns that reversing the decision will take a “concerted effort.” Congressman Dave Loeback — a member of the House Armed Services Committee — calls the recommendation “nothing short of appalling.” An 11 a.m. news conference is scheduled at Iowa National Guard headquarters in Johnston to discuss the Air Force recommendations.