Secretary Panetta Assures Congress

Last week the Department of Defense in a letter to Congressional members announced that it will stop scheduled Air Force transfers until Congress finalizes the 2013 budget. This is long overdue considering both the House and Senate months ago included language in the National Defense Authorization Act and Defense Appropriations to halt any FY13 transfers or cuts denoted in this year’s Air Force budget. Secretary Panetta states in his letter:

“Secretary Donley [is] committed to waiting for congressional deliberations before implementing the proposed FY 2013 force structure changes…and has assured me the Air Force stands by that commitment…I have directed the Air Force to suspend aircraft transfers and retirements previously scheduled for implementation in FY 2012 with the expectation that Congress completes action on the FY 2013 defense authorization and appropriation bills prior to the end of the fiscal year, providing clear support for a way forward.”

This announcement comes after numerous inquiries from Congressional members and Governors on the Air Force for explanation. After Governor Brian Schweitzer of Montana wrote to President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta of his intention to file legal action to prevent the DoD from moving the 120th Fighter Wing F-15 mission, Defense Department officials, including Air Force Secretary Michael Donely, met with Montana’s Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester on this issue.

Both Baucus and Tester were pleased with the DoD decision, which would impact Montana. However, Montana’s Governor dismissed the letter as a “motion masquerading as action in Washington D.C., as usual.”

Montana is one of many states concerned over the losses at Air National Guard units, such as the loss of C-130 aircraft from the Gulf region. With the Defense Department finally making moves to follow the direction of Congressional legislation, we at the NGAUS legislative team now wait for Congress to pass a Defense Authorization Act finalizing the halt to transfers through the end of the FY 13 year. We hope that the Air Force makes good on Secretary Panetta’s words. 

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