Tuesday, the U.S. Air Force publicly released its recommendation for substantive changes in its force structure and personnel to Congress. The recommendations are driven by budget constraints and changes in our national security strategy. If approved by Congress, these changes will impact the Wisconsin Air National Guard. It is not clear if Congress will approve these recommendations as submitted, make changes, or reject them entirely.
Here is what I know.
In the plan, we would lose two KC-135s from the 128th Air Refueling Wing and our RC-26 from the 115th Fighter Wing. We would see our authorized end strength reduced by 5 percent, or 114 positions. These positions affect both flying wings and the Combat Readiness Training Center — all three units lose personnel positions. What makes this announcement particularly challenging is the short timeline to implement these decisions as they would take effect Oct. 1 of this year. This information comes from the National Guard Bureau and the USAF.
Here is how I am responding.
I am working with your commanders as a team to mitigate the impacts of this decision. I’ve placed a freeze on recruiting until the dust settles and we can analyze the impact on unit manning documents. We will do everything in our power to try and offer Airmen affected by these changes an opportunity to cross-train within your existing unit or to transfer to another unit within the Wisconsin National Guard. Freezing recruiting will preserve more opportunity.
We will continue to work with the National Guard Bureau and analyze these changes. The next significant date for us is April 1, which is when the Guard Bureau has assured us we will have our Fiscal Year 2013 manning documents. Once we have the documents, we will know which positions are affected and can use tools available to mitigate the impact.
Here is what I need you to do.
Remain focused on the mission and continue to do your job safely. Worry will not mitigate or improve this situation, but it could lead to mistakes — don’t let it. We are the Wisconsin National Guard — we have been answering the call since 1839, and we will continue to answer the call for centuries to come. Part of that professionalism includes controlling rumors. Uncertainty is stressful enough — let’s not compound that with unfounded speculation.
I pledge to you and your families to do everything in my power to mitigate the impacts of this decision. Our core values remain: integrity, selfless service, excellence, diversity and resilience, and our core values will guide us through this challenge. I am proud of this organization and I am proud to serve with you. Let’s continue, even in difficult times, to provide exceptional service to our state and nation.