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Sat, Aug 27, 2005

Lawsuit Challenges BRAC Air Guard Recommendations

A Federal Judge handed down a decision Friday that the Defense Department has no authority to eliminate a Pennsylvania Air National Guard fighter wing without the state governor's okay.

U.S. District Judge John Padova called DoD's recommendation to deactivate the Pennsylvania Air National Guard's 111th Fighter Wing "null and void" because Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell had not consented with the decision, a Department of Justice official confirmed.

Today's decision came as the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission voted today to close Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Willow Grove, Pa., the 111th Fighter Wing's home.

The BRAC commission's decision on the suburban Philadelphia base was among many expected later today as the commission deliberates on sweeping recommendations to revamp the Air National Guard.

The panel was slated to continue its deliberations late Friday.

News reports said the state of Illinois has filed a lawsuit similar to Pennsylvania's involving its Air National Guard and Missouri has threatened to do the same. During a mid-July interview with the American Forces Press Service, Army Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, acknowledged that the Defense Department's recommendations could have a big impact on the Air Guard.

But the proposed changes are important measures that will increase the Air Guard's contribution to the Air Force and U.S. military, Blum said. "We want (the Air National Guard) to be an organization that has modern capabilities and a vital essential part of the Air Force."

"Overall, BRAC equals transformation," Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Richard Smith, Air National Guard command chief master sergeant, said when the BRAC proposals were initially announced in May. "The Air National Guard is always changing. Change has been done for generations before, and now it's our turn."



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