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Looking forward

Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport, Illinois -- In today's economic and political environment it is easy to see only doom and gloom around the corner.  President Obama had to sign a Continuing Resolution just to keep the federal government running until the middle of November due to the gridlock in Congress, the ongoing Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, the spreading of the European debt crisis, the dismal performance of the stock market, the high unemployment rate of nine percent, and the Federal Reserve just stated that economic activity and labor market conditions will probably only improve at a sluggish pace over the next two years. The latest bit of bad news is the possibility that the military budget may be reduced by a large amount. 

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz stated Nov. 1, that the on-going U.S. financial crisis has sparked a need for change in how the Department of Defense operates. He stated that "With less money in the Air Force budget, the service will continue to review all areas including force structure, operations and investment, and personnel for further savings. We would rather be a smaller, capable Air Force than one that is larger and not ready. That's the strategy we're going to follow." And if Congress' 12 member Deficit Super Committee does not meet its Nov. 23 deadline to engineer a $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade, then across the board spending cuts to domestic and defense programs would automatically kick in starting in fiscal year 2013.  The Pentagon claims that the cumulative impact of such cuts would be $1 trillion through 2021, starting with the fiscal 2013 budget. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the automatic cuts would lower defense budgets by about $882 billion total through 2021, or a 16 percent decrease against current projections. 

What we can probably expect is that the Air National Guard will take some type of hit which will undoubtedly cause a change in how we do business.  What comfort as Guardsmen can we take in all this? It is probably easy to lose perspective while we are trying to maintain our jobs and keep our families stable while at the same time coping with the ever growing training workloads, inspections, TDY's and overseas deployments. But do not lose hope! We have a critical mission ahead and it is a Guard mission. 

Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, Director of the Air National Guard, recently stated, "The Air Guard provides to the United States Air Force 34 percent of the combat capability on 7 percent of the budget," and, "I've told my Airmen that the Air National Guard is positioned exactly where it needs to be at this critical time to provide the most combat capability for the least amount of money." He went on to say the Air Guard operates 66 of our 89 wings off of civilian airfields for about the same amount of money as it costs to run one large Air Force base and the Air Guard is present in the majority of the Air Force missions with a fraction of the cost (43 percent of the air-refueling mission, 33 percent of the fighter
mission, 30 percent of the cargo and transport mission, 20 percent of the remotely piloted aircraft mission and 20 percent of the distributive common ground station mission). We as Guardsmen have clearly proven that once deployed we are indistinguishable from our active duty counterparts. 

To help prepare for any potential changes that may occur, Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Muncy, Command Chief Master Sgt. of the Air National Guard, stated last month that Guard members need to be technically, physically and mentally ready Airmen who are committed to developing themselves. He said with such Airmen he is confident that the Guard will successfully handle any change and continue to be a relevant, timely and dependable force that has been 375 years in the making. 

What specifically can we do at the Wing level? We need to continually step up our game to be the best Wing that we can be - keep training, complying with inspections, deploying and displaying a high morale. If we continue to do these things, stay focused on our mission and be the best Airmen we can be, we will successfully handle any change that may occur. Also, we need to get involved by supporting our professional military organizations.  These organizations speak directly to our elected officials and bring our concerns to Congress - which helps to shape our future. 

Remember the Airman who best conveys our national resolve at the local level is a hometown Guardsman.  Your ability to respond is what guarantees the future security of our nation and the reputation of the Guard.