National Guard September 2011 : Page 26
Closure, Sort of By William Matthews BRAC 2005, which began with so much rancor six years ago, will quietly end this month. But the process still rankles he North Dakota Air National Guard’s Happy Hooligans aren’t as happy as they used to be. “It was more fun to ﬂ y the ﬁ ghter,” concedes Col. Rick Gibney, the com-mander of the 119th Wing. “But it’s more rewarding to do the operational mission.” For the Hooligans now, that means ﬂ ying MQ-1B Predator unmanned T | aerial vehicles to support U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The last of the unit’s 15 ﬁ ghters— some of the oldest F-16s in the Air Force—ﬂ ew off to the aircraft “bone-yard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., in early 2007 and were replaced by the UAVs. The switch from Fighting Falcons to Predators was part of a sweeping reorganization of the Air National Guard ordered by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) rulings. The changes, which aff ect 56 of the Air National Guard’s 89 ﬂ ying units, are to be completed by Sept. 15, and except for a few ongoing construction projects, they will be, says Col. Ran-dolph Staudenraus, the Air Guard’s deputy director for strategic plans and programs at the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va. Aircraft have been shuffl ed from unit to unit and base to base, and mis-sions have been changed in the name of effi ciency. Across the Air Guard, 22 units lost some or all of their aircraft; 18 units lost their ﬂ ying missions; and 33 units 26 Na tional Guard
Closure, Sort of
BRAC 2005, which began with so much rancor six years ago, will quietly end this month. But the process still rankles
The North Dakota Air National Guard's Happy Hooligans aren't as happy as they used to be.
"It was more fun to fly the fighter," concedes Col. Rick Gibney, the commander of the 119th Wing. "But it's more rewarding to do the operational mission."
For the Hooligans now, that means flying MQ-1B Predator unmanned aerial vehicles to support U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
The last of the unit's 15 fighters–some of the oldest F-16s in the Air Force–flew off to the aircraft "boneyard" at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., in early 2007 and were replaced by the UAVs.
The switch from Fighting Falcons to Predators was part of a sweeping reorganization of the Air National Guard ordered by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) rulings.
The changes, which affect 56 of the Air National Guard's 89 flying units, are to be completed by Sept. 15, and except for a few ongoing construction projects, they will be, says Col. Randolph Staudenraus, the Air Guard's deputy director for strategic plans and programs at the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va.
Aircraft have been shuffled from unit to unit and base to base, and missions have been changed in the name of efficiency.
Across the Air Guard, 22 units lost some or all of their aircraft; 18 units lost their flying missions; and 33 units gained aircraft, although not necessarily the same kind they were flying before.
After all the churn, the Air Guard now has 156 fewer planes than it had in 2005, Staudenraus says.
About 15,000 Air Guard jobs were moved to new locations or changed to other specialties, although overall, the Air Guard's authorized personnel end-strength remains unchanged at 106,700, Staudenraus says.
A stated aim of BRAC 2005 was to make the Air Guard better able to support the active-component Air Force by taking on more emerging missions such as homeland defense, UAVs and intelligence.
"We had to take a good look with the Air Force and the Defense Department and say, what are the missions [that the Air Guard should be performing?] What's coming down the pipe? What do we need to expand into?" Staudenraus says.
An obvious mission was UAVs. The Defense Department was working feverishly to increase the number of unmanned surveillance combat air patrols in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. The Air Force needed more pilots to fly Predators and more intelligence analysts to interpret the growing volume of video that was pouring in from overhead.
There was also a need for greater Air Guard involvement in cyber operations and space operations, as well as in air defense, civil engineering, aerial firefighting, law enforcement and specialized medicine.
The need to hang on to aging fighters and other aircraft was growing less urgent.
So, today in North Dakota, Arizona, California, Nevada, New York, Texas and, soon, Ohio, former pilots report to high-security UAV operations centers where they fly missions over Afghanistan and Iraq thousands of miles away.
About 200 old armories were ordered closed, and, in many cases, two or more armories were to be replaced by a single, larger reserve center to be shared by the Army Guard and Army and Marine Corps reserves, says Lt. Col. Timothy Abrell, senior engineer at the NGB's installations division.
The Defense Department is building 125 such centers at a cost of $2.6 billion, Abrell says. The new centers are "stateof- the-art facilities that will enhance our mission capabilities and support recruiting and retention," he says.
By contrast, many of the armories they replace are more than 40 years old and in need of major repairs (related story, page 30).
In most cases, the new reserve centers are within 50 miles of the old armories that have been shuttered.
It's been six years since BRAC 2005 was announced, and for the most part, the Guard has come to terms with it. But getting there wasn't easy.
First, Guard officials argue the Air Force misused the process. BRAC was designed to divest surplus property, not to reorganize the force. In addition, they say, the adjutants general had no input and base selection criteria strongly favored active-component bases.
All of this had NGAUS, the adjutants general, state officials and many members of Congress crying foul. And the experience still rankles today.
A dozen states eventually sued to block BRAC actions, arguing that their governors–the state commanders in chief–had not approved de facto base closures and mission changes.
Connecticut, Massachusetts, Michigan and Ohio successfully fought off Air Guard base closures. Alaska did not, and Kulis Air Guard Base there closed earlier this year.
But even the states' successes were followed by years of uncertainty while governors, congressional delegations and mayors battled to keep Guard aircraft in their states and to find new missions for BRAC-battered units.
"BRAC was not kind to the Connecticut Air National Guard," recalls Col. John Whitford, the state's chief spokesman.
Initial BRAC proposals left the Connecticut Air Guard without any aircraft. After 85 years as a fighter wing, Connecticut's 103rd Flying Yankees were going to be grounded.
The unit's 15 A-10 Thunderbolt II attack planes were reassigned to neighboring Massachusetts and the Air Guard base at Bradley International Airport was to be closed.
The state fought back with a lawsuit and a lobbying campaign, and, eight months later, the Pentagon relented. The Connecticut Air Guard didn't get to keep its 15 A-10s, but it got eight C-21s–eight-passenger Learjet transports–as replacements.
Even though the Connecticut Air Guard fleet was reduced by about half, Gov. Jody Rell and other state politicians declared victory, stressing that the eight C-21s would preserve about 400 jobs. A negotiated settlement to the lawsuit secured hundreds of other jobs by requiring the Air Force to establish an Air Guard command and control headquarters and an A-10 engine repair facility in the state.
"We were a poster child for who really got hurt by BRAC," says Col. Frank Detorie, commander of what is now the 103rd Airlift Wing. "Now we're a poster child for how to make the most of that. Right now, BRAC for Connecticut is kind of a success story."
BRAC triggered similar upheaval for Air Guard units across the country.
In Michigan, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the state's congressional delegation struggled for months to keep Kellogg Air National Guard Base from closing. They achieved a partial victory, keeping the base, but not the 15 A-10s stationed there.
The attack planes were moved across the state to Selfridge Air Guard Base and Battle Creek's 110th Fighter Wing was turned into a seven-plane C-21 airlift unit.
Meanwhile at Selfridge, C-130s and F-16s based there were moved out, KC-135 refueling tankers were moved in, and the base's engine maintenance facility was moved to Connecticut.
In Montana, the Air Guard's F- 16s were sent to Vermont and were replaced by F-15s from Missouri. But a year later the Air Force announced that the F-15s would be moved to California to replace retiring F-16s, and Montana's 120th Fighter Wing would receive four C-27J cargo planes, perhaps beginning in 2014.
C-130s from Tennessee were transferred to Alaska, and Mississippi's KC-135 refueling tankers were divided up among Tennessee, Wisconsin and Maine. As a replacement for Mississippi, Key Field in Meridian is to receive six C-27Js and become a "formal training unit" for the joint cargo aircraft.
That decision angered officials in Ohio, where U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown wanted the training mission to go to the Air Guard base in his hometown, Mansfield.
Ohio's 179th Airlift Wing based there had more than 50 years of experience with cargo planes and was ideal for the training mission, Brown said when the announcement was made.
"Sending the training unit to Mississippi is like sending in a left fielder to close out the game," Brown sniped to reporters.
Instead of gaining the training mission, the Mansfield unit lost its eight C-130Hs to Arkansas and Alabama in 2010 and was designated to receive four C-27Js in their place.
If trading eight big C-130s for four smaller C-27s was painful for the 179th, parting with F-16s was equally difficult for Ohio's 178th Fighter Wing.
For a decade, the Springfield-based unit ran an F-16 pilot training center for U.S. and foreign pilots. BRAC ended that. It took Ohio Guard officials and state political leaders five years to find a new mission for the 178th.
In 2010, the former fighter wing became a Predator unit–except that the 178th doesn't actually own any Predators, it won't have a launch and recovery section, and because of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules, it can't fly UAVs in Ohio airspace.
For now, the unit's personnel are still in training for the UAV flying mission, says Mark Wayda, the vice chief of staff of the Ohio Guard.
Reaction to the new mission among the 178th's F-16 pilots and mechanics has been mixed. A number of F-16 pilots left in search of other units where they can continue to fly F-16s, Wayda says.
Others have stayed and are training to fly Predators. But for many of the mechanics and others who weren't pilots, a Predator unit without a launch and recovery section means jobs have simply disappeared.
For Ohio, the BRAC decisions announced in 2005 were "very, very difficult," Wayda says. The governor, senators, congressmen, mayors and other officials worked frantically to keep bases open and find new missions.
But like other states hit hard by BRAC, Ohio has mostly adjusted. A $7 million Predator operations center is under construction at Springfield, and in nearby Dayton, the Ohio Guard has been given "a significantly expanded presence" at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Wayda says.
The center produces predictive intelligence about foreign threats to U.S. air and space operations.
"We're training in new type of skills. It's very much next-generation," Wayda says.
And if the FAA lets Guard UAVs operate in Ohio's airspace, there will be additional opportunities. Besides creating a need for a launch-and-recovery section, the Ohio Guard could fly Predators for such domestic missions as patrolling the northern border, participating in search-and-rescue missions and conducting reconnaissance during state emergencies.
On the Army side in Ohio, BRAC-ordered closures of aging, small-town armories set in motion $200 million worth of construction on modern reserve centers.
"The 2005 BRAC gave us an opportunity to upgrade facilities infrastructure. It has been very positive for us," Wayda says. "Looking back at it now, while there are still issues, the main effect on Ohio has been positive."
Texas, too, is putting a positive spin on BRAC's decision to strip Houston's 147th Fighter Wing of its F-16s and replace the jets with Predators.
At first the idea was anathema. Texas politicians, including then Rep. Tom DeLay, the second-ranking member of the House of Representatives, and Gov. Rick Perry, argued that the F-16s were essential for protecting Texas Gulf coast ports and petrochemical plants against airborne terrorist attacks.
They failed to convince the BRAC Commission, which reviewed proposals from each of the services and made final decisions, and by 2009, the 147th was flying UAV missions from Houston's Ellington Field.
During a Predator roll-out ceremony, Col. Ken Wisian, the wing commander, hailed Predators as the "new leading edge of what warfare is becoming."
And because Predators can be flown from home stations, they're an ideal mission for the Guard, Wisian said.
"It is not always easy to see when you are in the middle of change how big it is," Wisian told his troops. UAVs "have changed the way the war is fought in a major way. We are only beginning to see what will become a remote-controlled war."
For many in the Air Guard, having to trade fighters for Predators, A-10s for C- 21s, and C-130s for C-27Js "was wrenching," says Wayda, the Ohio Guard vice chief of staff. But in the end, it "forced the states to make decisions that maybe they should have made anyway."
Staudenraus, the Air Guard's strategic plans and programs deputy, says the six-year overhaul of hardware and missions has left the Air Guard "more relevant and capable than ever."
William Matthews is a freelance writer based in Springfield, Va., who specializes in military matters. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
"We were a poster child for who really got hurt by BRAC. Now we're a poster child for how to make the most of that."
–Col. Frank Detorie Commander, 103rd Airlift Wing Connecticut Air National Guard
"Looking back at it now, while there are still issues, the main effect on Ohio has been positive."
–Mark Wayda Vice Chief of Staff Ohio National Guard
GAO: BRAC Savings Are Far Less Than Projected
From the outset, BRAC 2005 was going to be huge. It identified 24 major bases to be closed, picked 24 more bases for major realignments, and called for 765 other lesser closures and realignments.
The cost to make those changes was going to be huge–$24.7 billion to build new facilities and $10.4 billion to move troops and equipment to new bases. But the savings was supposed be even bigger, the Pentagon said–$47.8 billion over 20 years.
With closures and realignments now drawing to a close, it's clear that the savings estimate was hugely overstated. The savings will be closer to $15.8 billion over 20 years, said Anthony Principi, chairman of the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission.
Construction costs ballooned and environmental cleanup added to expenses, Dorothy Robyn, defense deputy undersecretary for installations and environment told Congress in April.
And the Pentagon counted some troops that were moved out of closing bases as savings even though they were moved to other bases and remained on the payroll, Principi said in a broadcast interview in June.
The point of BRAC since it started in 1988 has been to save money by closing unneeded bases and by making better use of the bases left open. But for BRAC 2005, savings was a secondary goal, Principi says.
This time, BRAC "was more about transformation than cost savings."
Robyn says, "Whereas earlier rounds focused on eliminating capacity made excess by a declining force structure, BRAC 2005 took on a more complex challenge–reconfiguring operational capacity to maximize warfighting capability and efficiency."
For example, BRAC closed 211 National Guard armories and 176 Army Reserve Centers, Robyn said. That would seem to save money, except that the Defense Department built 125 new Armed Forces Reserve Centers to replace the facilities it shuttered. The new centers and other reserve facilities improvements cost $3.4 billion.
Expected savings for all the Air Guard closures and realignments evaporated for a different reason.
Initial Pentagon projections were that the Air Guard changes would save $26 million a year. But when Government Accountability Office auditors examined the Air Guard numbers, they found that they would actually cost an extra $53 million annually.
The savings vanished because while BRAC removed missions from a number of Air Guard bases, it did not permit corresponding cuts in Air Guard personnel end-strength, the GAO said.
In the long run, BRAC 2005 will save money, Robyn says, just not as much as originally projected.
—By William Matthews
Read the full article at http://www.nationalguardmagazine.com/article/Closure%2C+Sort+of/817518/79476/article.html.