Some states have voiced concern their Air National Guard bases are switching from traditional aircraft to unmanned aircraft squadrons, like the 174th Fighter Wing at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, N.Y., last year. (Tech. Sgt. Ricky Best / Air Force)
A move to shift unmanned aircraft squadrons to the Air National Guard as traditional aircraft squadrons are decommissioned has some governors and state adjutants general worried, the top Air Guard official said.
“Some states are very concerned about not having a manned mission and only going to an unmanned mission,” said Lt. Gen. Stanley Clarke, the new director of the Air National Guard, during a House Appropriations committee hearing March 21.
The Air National Guard flies MQ-1B Predator and MQ-9 Reaper missions in places such as North Dakota, Texas, California, New York and Arizona. The fiscal 2014 budget proposal is expected to include realigning more wings to become unmanned, said John Goheen, spokesman with the National Guard Association of the United States.
Air Force officials have said their goal is to have one flying mission in every state, and leaders would like to keep the traditional aircraft, such as F-16s or C-130s, in their skies.
“It’s a different kind of mission; one can argue it’s a flying mission, but for some in the Air Guard it’s not quite the same,” Goheen said.
State leaders are using increased access through the Council of Governors, a bipartisan group of 10 state leaders, and the congressionally mandated National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force to provide more input on the budget. Clarke said fiscal 2014 plans, expected to be released April 8, are being communicated to state leaders.
Last year, the Air Force budget proposal came under intense scrutiny from Congress when state leaders said they had little or no input into the plan. Leaders of the active, Guard and Reserve forces have vowed to work together to avoid a repeat of the budget fiasco, which temporarily delayed Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s confirmation.
“We’re in the process of … putting our implementation plans to the states and the adjutant generals and the governors so that they can take a look at it so they’ll know how we’re going to do this proposal,” Clarke said.