June 03, 2005

Wyden: Proposed 142nd Air Wing Changes Make Oregon Vulnerable to Attack

Guard officials brief Senator in Portland today on critical security roleof PDX-based units slated for downsizing by U.S. Department of Defense

Portland, OR - After a briefing today from officials with the 142nd Air National Guard Fighter Wing and the Oregon Military Department, U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said that proposed changes to the unit pose a threat to the safety and security of Oregon and the Northwest region. Wyden had previously expressed strong concerns about Defense Department recommendations to the Federal Base Realignment and Closing (BRAC) Commission that would drop 13 alert fighter jets out of the Portland Air Base, leaving the 142nd with only two jets at PDX. Today, colonels of the 142nd and the Oregon Military Department told Wyden if the recommendations are implemented, fighters would not be available if one large-scale or multiple and simultaneous attacks occurred in the Northwest. They noted that the Pentagon's recommendations would drop the region's alert force to pre-9/11 levels. Wyden received today's briefing in advance of a scheduled June 17 hearing in Portland of the BRAC Commission, at which the recommendations will be reviewed. Wyden said today he will testify in opposition to the proposed realignments. "This is a world of multiple threats, and it's clear today that the Pentagon's recommendations will place Oregon and the nation at far greater risk," said Wyden. "When the BRAC Commission comes to Portland they'll be told in no uncertain terms that military cost-cutting is not an adequate reason to leave our region vulnerable to attack." "After a thorough analysis of this proposal, we are very perplexed that this is the outcome that has been recommended for Portland Air Base. This proposal does not pass the logic test when it comes to the homeland defense of the Northwest, and we intend to make those points to the BRAC Commission and believe that they will recognize the failures in this proposal," said Colonel Mike Caldwell, deputy director of the Oregon Military Department. On May 13, 2005, the U.S Department of Defense proposed changes to the Air Guard Station at Portland International Airport including the realignment of the 142nd Fighter Wing's F-15 aircraft to stations in Atlantic City, N.J. and New Orleans, La.; the Pentagon list says the wing's expeditionary combat support elements and two combat communications squadrons will remain at Portland. Proposed changes to the 939th Air Refueling Wing include realignment of aircraft and maintenance personnel to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma and Forbes Field Air Guard Station in Kansas, with one aircraft sent to backup inventory. Remaining personnel of the 939th, including expeditionary combat support, would be realigned to Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The 304th Rescue Squadron at Portland would be realigned to McChord Air Force Base in Washington. Even before the Pentagon's recommendations were issued, Wyden and U.S. Senator Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) lobbied BRAC Chairman Anthony Principi in a May 6 letter to maintain the current vital roles of Oregon's military facilities. In addition to Wyden's testimony at the June 17 hearing, BRAC officials are scheduled to hear from other public officials, members of the Oregon Guard and state homeland security officials. The BRAC Commission has established a web page where constituents can give their feedback on the proposed realignments and closures directly to the Commission. Oregonians concerned about the base closure and realignment recommendations can offer their comments at http://www.brac.gov/feedback.aspx