July 07, 2005

Washington and Northwest Airspace

In the extended entry I've included the entirety of Gen. Frank Scoggins' testimony before the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission. Gen. Scoggins is the Assistant Adjutant General for the Washington Air National Guard. As dry as that sounds, the content is nothing short of alarming if you happen to live in the northwest, or really, any of the western states.

The bombings today in London threw into sharp relief the fact that Al Qaida hasn't just packed up their toys and gone home. Kim Jong Il still has nuclear warheads and long-range missiles. And at any time, some portion of the seismically active west coast could be subject to a major natural disaster.

Yet if the BRAC sticks with the Pentagon recommendations, the governor of Washington State, along with governors of Idaho, Montana and Oregon will have no airlift capacity at their immediate disposal in case of emergency. At least 18 other states will be in a similar situation, but the entire continous northwest is out in the cold. And because Nevada and both of the Dakotas will also have no permanent airlift capacity, the airlift units in Wyoming, Utah and California will be the closest available to cover the whole region.

Is it any wonder that WA State's entire congressional delegation has signed a letter objecting to these changes? Head down to look at the maps for the full impact, and note that the page may load more slowly than usual as I've included all eight images that came with the testimony.


June 17, 2005
Portland, OR

Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today in order to offer inputs regarding the impact of the BRAC plan for the State of Washington. My name is Frank Scoggins and I am appearing in front of you today in my state capacity as the Assistant Adjutant General/Washington Air National Guard. In my prepared remarks, I am representing the assessments and concerns of Governor Gregoire and The Adjutant General, MGen Timothy Lowenberg, as well as my own. The Governor is on a Trade Mission in Europe or she would be here in person. I am submitting a letter to your Commission on her behalf. MGen Lowenberg was also unable to attend today, but he sends his appreciation for your time.

Let me begin by stating that the Governor fully embraces the majority of the recommendations of the BRAC proposal as it relates to Washington State. The Army and Navy processes approaching the release of BRAC were as collaborative as allowable and there were no significant surprises. The results of their recommendations will allow the citizens, industries, and governments of Washington to continue to strongly support the nation’s defense requirements. Even more importantly, there are no implications in the Army or Navy recommendations that would negatively affect the state in regard to the Governor’s responsibilities for Homeland Security.

All of the concerns that I will address today revolve around the USAF recommendations and the negative impacts that we believe those recommendations will have if they are implemented. We have no doubt that their intentions were good, but the process was extremely closed. It is our belief that there are serious unintended long term consequences if the USAF recommendations are fully adopted.

I have four issues to discuss today. First, I will address consequences of the proposed BRAC recommendation that we feel will negatively impact the connectivity of America with her United States Air Force. Then I will address the Governor’s concern about a lack of emergency airlift that will remain in the Northwest under the current plan. I will follow-on with a request that you look at the shortfalls caused by an apparent imbalance of the distribution of KC-135 aircraft under BRAC. A closing point will be made regarding potential Air Sovereignty Homeland Security deficiencies.

The first issue is one that affects the entire nation. Slide 1 is illustrated with stars that depict the location of the eighty-eight unit equipped flying wings that exist in the Air National Guard today. The definition of a unit equipped flying wing is one that has the responsibility for the management, maintenance, and operation of an assigned number of aircraft.

Pre-BRAC 88 Unit Equipped ANG Flying Units
Slide 1

The basing recommendations made by the USAF for the BRAC would result in the removal of over one third of these unit equipped wings. As shown on Slide 2, the proposed basing of the remaining Air National Guard Wings would leave seven states and Puerto Rico without a unit equipped flying wing as depicted in this illustration. Two of those states, Montana and Washington, are present at today’s forum.

Post-BRAC 58 Unit Equipped ANG Flying Units
Slide 2

The Adjutants General of the United States have gone on record that they understand that the recapitalization of the Air Force will require a reduction in both USAF and Air National Guard flying force structure. They are not resistant to a proportional reduction that will provide for America’s future Airpower needs. They believe, however, changes of this magnitude should be done in consultation with the Adjutants General, and failure of the Air Force to do so has produced a BRAC basing methodology, if adopted, will have the unintended consequence of disconnecting the citizens of America from a key part of their military.

The Adjutants General, with a common voice, have stated they support maintaining a minimum of one unit equipped flying wing in each state. This is not for political maneuvering. It goes to the ideology of the militia nation concept of defense that has its foundation in the United States Constitution. As you know the organized militias created by the Constitution were not intended or designed to be the most efficient and accessible military organization possible. They were, in fact, created as a political construct designed to keep checks and balances in place for the use of the United States military. Our forefathers envisioned a standing military that would be at the immediate call of the President, but they carefully placed much of the military force in each of the states. The design was crafted specifically to avoid creating a presidency that could conduct foreign policy with the powers of a King backed by a King’s Military. The organized militias set forth in the Constitution, today’s Army and Air National Guard, were to be organized, trained, and equipped by the federal military. They were to be available to be called to duty as the nation needed. However, there were put in place congressional checks and balances for the call up and use of that force. For centuries, this has served to ensure that the citizens of the nation remain connected to, and remain responsible for their own defense. The use of the United States military for large scale operations, by design, requires the consent of the Congress. This concept also ensures that the military is only used for long term conflict when supported by the people. The one significant time that this process was avoided was during the Vietnam War when the large standing force in place for the Cold War made it possible to fight in Vietnam without calling up the Guard and Reserves. As we know, immediately after the end of that war, the Total Force Policy was developed to ensure that the Guard and Reserve would have to be a part of any future sustained conflict. In the opinion of some in the DoD, the result of that policy is creating complications in today’s environment. Others would state that the system is working in that Americans are fully connected to foreign operations because of required mobilization of the National Guard. The fact that this is causing informed questions to be asked throughout America is a good, and not a bad result of Total Force dependencies. The Adjutants General believe that it is a mistake to dismantle the militia nation concept as it relates to the USAF in order to address a short term anomaly in America’s history.

One of the goals of the Air Force in this BRAC recommendation is to make the aircraft and aircrews currently serving in the Air National Guard more accessible for federal use. BRAC would accomplish this by closing many unit equipped Air National Guard Wings and redefining the militia concept by integrating Air National Guard units with and occasionally into active duty wings. From a DoD perspective, this would reduce the requirement to mobilize the Air National Guard and minimize the need to go to Congress to ask for permission to use more of the force. Unfortunately, it would also dismantle many of the safeguards created by the Total Force policy. This restructuring would help solve short term problems, but it is the concern of the Adjutants General that it would have grave long term negative impacts.

When the USAF made the BRAC military value determination it weighted large centrally managed installations with high scores. This arrangement provides the most efficient way to bed down large concentration of forces, but by default, it offers very little scoring to the small and efficient Air National Guard wings. The USAF was looking at the issue through the eyes of leaders responsible to the President for the instant projection of air power. There was no allowance made in their calculations for the value of Air National Guard community basing. It is our contention that keeping Air National Guard unit equipped flying wings distributed in every state will ensure that Americans throughout the nation stay in tune with their Air Force. They will learn about their Air Force and the missions it is performing from citizen airmen who serve on school boards with them and who work and live alongside them as permanent members of their communities. Those informed citizens will lend their voices of support to the military because they will understand the issues as their neighbors, the citizen Airmen, deploy around the world and fight in America’s wars.

If those same citizens begin to hear things that cause them to lose support for the overseas mission, our elected members of Congress will begin to receive feedback and will hear the collective voices of America. It will result in democracy in action at a much earlier point in a conflict, and a repeat of Vietnam will be avoided. This was the intent of the militia nation construct… to keep citizens involved in their own defense rather than to develop a large standing professional military. BRAC should not be allowed to fundamentally change the way America defends herself because of USAF basing decisions.

With today’s lethal weapons and with the speed that Airpower can be projected very quickly around the world, it might be time to consider a change to the militia nation concept of defense for the USAF. On the other hand, it might also be a time to make sure that America is behind the use of that incredible power before the country commits to wielding it. In either case, any fundamental change in how the country defends herself should be debated in Congress by the elected representatives of the people and not accomplished as a byproduct of BRAC basing decisions. We request that you look at the military value calculations and recommend that you place a high value on the positives of keeping at least one unit equipped flying wing in each state. For the purpose of today’s hearings, that would affect both Montana and Washington, but we believe this to be a nationwide issue and the most important one that I am addressing today.

The second point I would like to address with you is the impact of the Air Force recommendations in BRAC on the Governor’s ability to respond to Homeland Security requirements and natural disasters. Since September 11, 2001, many National Guard capabilities have been developed in order to support civil authorities in time of crisis. Those assets require air transportation in many instances. The impact of removing unit equipped KC-135s from the Washington Air National Guard and of C-130 aircraft from the Idaho Air National Guard will totally delete the Northwest Governors’ emergency capability to respond to Homeland Security events within the region. They will also lose a capability to rapidly support other governors throughout the United States through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC). Slide 3 shows the proposed post BRAC distribution of Air National Guard unit assigned airlift aircraft around the nation.

Post BRAC - Stars indicate ANG Mobility Wings; Yellow - States with no emergency airlift available to the governor
Slide 3

By design, unit assigned National Guard federal equipment; to include airlift aircraft is available to a governor for emergency use. Of course federal need always tops any state use, and the state must pay for any use it makes of the equipment. Thus, the system is designed so that there is no degradation of federal utilization, but the states benefit from the inherent capability of using the aircraft during times of emergency. During disasters, natural or human caused, this provides a tremendous emergency capability for the governors to use in their roles as the Chief Executive of the various states. Although it is not a reason for the USAF to base their aircraft in a specific state, the impact of moves involving airlift capability should be considered when arbitrary basing decisions are being made. As you can see, in Slide 3, the proposed BRAC moves will leave the governors of the entire Northwest Region without any emergency airlift capability. If the unit equipped KC-135s in the Washington Air National Guard were to be left in place, and if the C-130s were to remain in Idaho, the picture would look completely different. We request this be considered in your deliberations.

My third point for you today is to request a reconsideration of the KC-135 basing recommendations as it applies to Fairchild Air Force Base and the entire Northwest. As you know, the air refueling capability of the USAF sets this country apart with a Global Reach capability not approached by any other nation. This capability is what allows all other aircraft to be so effective. It allows C-17s to fly non stop to anywhere in the world. It allows us to deploy fighters, bombers, and surveillance aircraft to locations not reachable in any other fashion, and it allows the United States Navy and Marines to operate their aircraft from extended distances. Slides 4 and 5 illustrate the migration of air refueling capability away from the west coast if this BRAC proposal is adopted. As you can see the number of KC-135 unit equipped wings in the western third of the US decreases markedly.

Pre-BRAC KC-135 Distribution
Slide 4

Post-BRAC KC-135 Distribution
Slide 5

From a military value perspective it is our concern that it is not in the best interest of the United States of America to move these KC-135 force multiplying aircraft away from the west coast. The next illustration demonstrates the impact of flying air refueling missions from McConnell AFB, KS, the other large tanker base, instead of from Fairchild AFB, WA, when going into the Pacific Area of Responsibility.

Strategic Significance - 1,025 fewer nautical miles to fly means greater capability for Pacific missions
Slide 6

Since much of the Strategic Airlift deploys from McChord AFB, WA and Travis AFB, CA, it would seem prudent to keep more Air Refueling capability in the Northwest. Another factor is the concentration of receivers that utilize the KC-135 aircraft for training on a regular basis. McConnell AFB, KS and Fairchild AFB, WA are slated to be the two large air refueling bases remaining after BRAC. Slide 7 shows the number of receivers and tankers based within the 600 mile overlapping rings of the two bases. Again, it appears the distribution proposed under the current plan does not adequately address training needs, Pacific deployments, and Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) responsibilities. Adding to this problem is the alert air refueling requirements in the Northwest. Currently, between the KC-135s based at Portland and Fairchild, there are four airplanes required to be on alert at all times. If this BRAC proposal is implemented, over thirteen percent of the aircraft assigned to Fairchild will be tied to an alert line on any given day. In fact, crews of the Washington Air National Guard are providing two of the unit assigned alert aircraft and three of the crews for the alert lines at the current time. Loss of these aircraft would place an even larger burden on the already overstressed active duty fleet at Fairchild AFB. It is apparent that this information was not taken into consideration when the BRAC recommendations were made. With a force of only thirty aircraft, it would be very difficult to provide four airplanes for alert while covering the Pacific deployment and receiver training responsibilities, and still providing aircraft for the Air Expeditionary Force. It is requested that the Commission examine data from the USAF as to how the requirements can be met. Three of these alert aircraft are tied to Homeland Defense. All of these missions are being done with ANG and Air Force Reserve crews and planes. With those assets scheduled to leave, it is essential to ensure this mission will not suffer under the USAF recommendation.

Fairchild and McConnell KC-135/Receiver Ratios: 600 NM
Slide 7

The USAF BRAC proposal indicates Fairchild will be the first base to accept the KC-X follow-on air refueling tanker. The BRAC proposal indicates a basing plan that would place ten of the new aircraft at Fairchild by 2011. This aircraft will undoubtedly provide new capabilities, however, a design has not even been submitted yet, and it is very much an unknown as to when the aircraft will actually be available for basing. It is our contention it would be unwise to remove aircraft from Fairchild AFB, WA in the beginning stages of BRAC prior to the actual fielding of a new aircraft. If the aircraft is fielded at a later date and it offers new flexibility the reassignment could then be made. In our opinion, it would be detrimental for both cost and efficiency reasons to diminish the Fairchild AFB, WA capacity at this time.

Such a move would serve only to further skew the imbalance. It is our recommendation that the commission direct the eight unit equipped KC-135s assigned to the Washington Air National Guard be left in place until there is a production delivery and fielding plan for the follow-on aircraft is in place. Fairchild AFB has a capability to accommodate up to eighty-seven KC-135s, and the eight suggested to be left in place aircraft are currently stationed there and fully operational. The unit is fully combat capable and is contributing at full rate to the nation’s defense. There would be no cost to this proposal. As this Slide 8 shows, the trend at Fairchild is going in the opposite way than is prudent.

Fairchild will lose nearly 50% of its primary assigned KC-135s
Slide 8

We recommend the Commission overturn the USAF BRAC recommendation and direct the eight WA ANG unit-equipped KC-135s be left at the 141 Air Refueling Wing, Fairchild AFB, WA. This course of action would solve all three of the issues discussed to this point. Directing this action would keep the citizen Airman connection with the American people.

This positive course of action would provide an emergency airlift capability to the governors of the Northwest Region for use in Homeland Security events. While not detracting from their federal use, this would make aircraft available for Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) missions.

Finally, this solution reduces the basing imbalance of KC-135s by leaving eight additional aircraft in the Pacific region. This provides a much better capability to accomplish real world Pacific missions, receiver and tanker training needs, and projected alert requirements.

My final input to you today concerns the proposed BRAC change that would remove the F-15 air defense fighter aircraft based at from Portland IAP. It is our understanding that the BRAC plan to provide for the Air Defense for the Northwest duel tasks the F-15 training unit at Kingsley Field, OR. As a career fighter pilot who has also been the commander of an Air National Guard Fighter Training unit, I have concerns regarding the viability of this plan.

Numerous currency issues are involved with professionally performing the Air Sovereignty Alert Mission, and it is imperative that all certification issues for crews and aircraft be studied prior to making the assessment that this mission could be done as an additional tasking. The aircraft and the pilots of a training squadron are certainly capable of performing the mission, but I would suggest that the required aircraft checks and the pilot currencies required for the Air Sovereignty mission will detract from the ability to still provide the training mission.

From the standpoint of the Governor of Washington and our other elected officials, the question we ask the BRAC Commission to consider is whether or not the removal of the Portland F-15s would have a negative impact on response times for the many critical infrastructure sites in Washington. When this question is asked of the Northern Command, we would suggest that the answer should specifically address the ability of the system to rapidly ramp up to the highest response posture level that would be required when an unexpected crisis such as September 11th occurs.

This concludes my remarks. I would like to answer any questions that you may have.

Posted by natasha at July 7, 2005 06:39 PM | WA News & Trivia | Technorati links |


...What happened to provide for Defense and States' Militias and...


Posted by: Crissa at July 7, 2005 11:55 PM

If we don't have the presense, why are we paying for it? Think about it - Oregon Out Now!

Posted by: Thomas Ware at July 8, 2005 08:28 PM