On March 6, the U.S. Air Force publicly released their recommendation for substantive changes in USAF force structure and personnel to Congress. The recommendations were driven by budget constraints and changes in our national security strategy. What follows is an update to my original message from March 7.
Here is what I know.
The U.S. Air Force plan remains unchanged. If Congress accepts the budget submission, we would lose two KC-135 Stratotankers from the 128th Air Refueling Wing in Milwaukee and our RC-26 from the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, and we would see our authorized end strength reduced by 5 percent or 114 positions. The Combat Readiness Training Center at Volk Field is hit particularly hard with the loss of 18 full-time AGR positions. The National Guard Bureau has forwarded our manning documents for Fiscal Year 2013, which is when most of these changes are due to take effect. All of the positions affected by this change occur no later than April 1, 2013.
At this point, Congress continues to question the USAF on its assumptions and analysis. This information comes from the National Guard Bureau and the USAF.
Here is how I am responding.
I have worked with your commanders and, as a team, we have taken steps to mitigate the impacts of this decision, if implemented. I initially placed a freeze on recruiting until the dust settled and we could analyze the impact on unit manning documents. I have authorized selected hiring/recruiting when the action would have no bearing on personnel potentially affected by this budget action, and have delegated this authority to Brig. Gen. John McCoy in coordination with your commanders.
I’ve been assured by my command team that all personnel potentially affected have been contacted personally. If you haven’t been contacted, you can rest assured that these changes, if implemented, won’t affect you; however, one note of caution — because these changes aren’t approved, it is possible that future decisions by the USAF or Congress could change the impact on Wisconsin. If that happens, I will ensure you are aware and we will take the same measured steps to mitigate any impact.
We will continue a selective freeze on recruiting to assist personnel in positions slated for elimination. We will use multiple tools — selective retention, cross training, and planned retirements to meet projected reductions. We will continue to do everything within our power to assist Airmen affected. We will continue to work with the National Guard Bureau and analyze these changes. NGB has provided us the documents promised and continues to work with us to mitigate the impact on you and your families.
Here is what I need you to do.
Keep doing what you have been doing – remaining focused on the mission and continuing to do your job safely. We continue to act prudently and are working hard to ensure you have the best information available — worry will not improve this situation. You are members of the Wisconsin National Guard — each of you is valued and appreciated. If this change is enacted, we will manage it together.
I trust you and you can trust me and your commanders. I renew my 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