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McCaskill Defends Jefferson Barracks Squadron, Questions Proposed Elimination

Senator defends 121st Air Control Squadron, questions pros and cons of elimination

May 2, 2012

WASHINGTON - In response to the Air Force's recently announced planned force structure changes, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is questioning the Air Force's plan to eliminate one of Missouri's Air National Guard squadrons stationed in St. Louis.

In a letter to General Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, McCaskill highlighted the value of the personnel and equipment of the 121st Air Control Squadron located at the Joint Armed Forces Reserve Center at Jefferson Barracks, and requested that his office provide her with more information regarding the cost to the Air Force in terms of both the loss of experience associated with the elimination of the 121st and the actual dollar amounts that would be saved from the closure. McCaskill questioned the Air Force on whether or not these types of costs, among others, were fully considered before the Air Force decided the unit should be shut down.

"The institutional knowledge, as well as the homeland defense and disaster response capabilities of the 121st Air Control Squadron, clearly contributes substantially to the readiness of our armed forces," wrote McCaskill. "This is experience that the Air Force must think long and hard about before you decide to risk losing it."

McCaskill also expressed concern that the elimination of the 121st, slated for 2013, would result in a total reduction of 202 positions in St. Louis. The 121st is one of two Air National Guard air control squadrons the Air Force is planning to close next year.

McCaskill has been critical of several proposals contained in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget request submitted by the Department of Defense. McCaskill announced last month that, as Chairman of the Subcommittee on Military Readiness and Management Support, she would not support a new Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission, citing, among other things, a lack of supporting data that such a process would save adequate funds, is necessary at this time and could properly account for community concerns. As Chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over military construction and BRAC, McCaskill's decision to oppose a new BRAC round effectively kills any efforts to close bases in Missouri.

Read a full copy of the letter below.

Dear General Schwartz,

I write today in regard to the proposal to eliminate the Missouri National Guard's 121st Air Control Squadron at Jefferson Barracks as part of the Air Force's proposed force structure changes.   As you know, the mission of an Air Control Squadron is essential to the operational capabilities of our warfighters in theater.  In addition, as a National Guard unit, the 121st Air Control Squadron has a critical homeland defense and disaster response mission. 

The 121st has an extensive inventory of vehicles and equipment worth approximately $6 million, which has been heavily utilized during several state emergencies and in response to natural disasters over the past years.  For example, in January 2011, the unit responded effectively to a severe ice storm in a state of emergency, utilizing generators, heating units, forklifts, and semi-tractor trailers.

Furthermore, the 121st Air Control Squadron has significant technical expertise, knowledge, and experience that can only be gained though the type of long-standing service that is possessed by so many of the Missouri Air Guard members who serve in this unit.  As you know, such institutional knowledge is invaluable when it comes to achieving Air Force missions.  Some personnel in the 121st have been serving in highly technical positions for over 15 years.  Additionally, some of these personnel work in the same career field in their civilian jobs, making them much more efficient and experienced than some of their active duty counterparts.   This is experience that the Air Force must think long and hard about before you decide to risk losing it.

The institutional knowledge, as well as the homeland defense and disaster response capabilities of the 121st Air Control Squadron, clearly contributes substantially to the readiness of our armed forces.  As such, I have concerns that the value of the 121st Air Control Squadron's capabilities was not adequately considered in the Air Force's decision to eliminate the mission, and I ask that your office respond to the following questions:

  • What capabilities will be lost due to the proposed elimination of the 121st Air Control Squadron? What additional risk will the Air Force assume with this proposed elimination?
  • Did the Air Force analyze the degree of technical expertise, knowledge, and experience in the 121st Air Control Squadron before selecting it for elimination? If so, how did this analysis factor into the final decision?
  • Did the Air Force consider the unit's homeland defense and disaster response capabilities and missions before selecting it for elimination?
  • Does the Air Force have a plan to replace the skills and experience that will be lost due to the elimination of the 121st Air Control Squadron? If so, what will this cost?

I thank you for your attention to this request and for your continued dedication to our nation's Armed Forces.  Should you require additional information from my office, please contact Mr. Jason Rauch in my Washington, DC office at (202) 224-6154.

 

                                                            Sincerely,

                                                            Claire McCaskill

                                                            United States Senator

 

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