The' N. Pham, Associated Press
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s governor is pleading for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel not to touch the National Guard in cuts that promise to sharply trim the Air Force, Army and Navy.
“Don’t come and hack away and balance the cutting on the backs of the National Guard,” Gov. Gary Herbert said Tuesday. “That’s the worst place to cut.”
Hagel, faced with tough decisions and budget woes, outlined plans Monday to make various cuts to the services — some of them steep. His plan includes reducing Army soldier numbers to pre-World War II levels.
The Guard and Reserves are expected to face relatively smaller cuts if the plan is approved, but retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Brian Tarbet — a former adjutant general of Utah from 2000 to 2012 — questioned the timing of any of the cuts with a world he characterized as only growing more dangerous.
“You point to me one area around the globe where things are better today than they were 10 years ago,” Tarbet said. “I’ll be happy to smile broadly, but you won’t find any. It’s a very dangerous place out there.”
Tarbet pointed to Korea, the Middle East and Latin America as lingering trouble spots.
“None of these trends are what I would call ‘comforting’ in any sense to defense planners,” he said.
Threats should drive what the military looks like, not the budget, Tarbet said. While he recognized a need to reduce numbers after wartime, but said focused cuts were far more preferable to sweeping, across-the-board ones.
“What we don’t need are proportional cuts to make everyone feel good,” Tarbet said. “We need sensible cuts.”
He also recommended the opposite of cuts as they pertain to the National Guard, suggesting it does more for less.
“It’s doing it at about 25 percent to 30 percent of the cost of what active component units can do,” Tarbet said. “So if you want to save money, you push more missions to the Guard and Reserve — not less — across the board. That’s where the Defense Department can harvest some true savings.”
Among the other reported plans was one to trade the Guard’s Apache helicopters to the Army in exchange for its Black Hawk choppers. The belief is the Black Hawks would better serve the Guard for disaster relief purposes.
Hagel also said he intended to eliminate the A-10 “Warthog” fleet.
Tarbet bristled at that idea, calling it one of the favorite aircraft of military men.
“Nothing comforts a soldier more than having air superiority, so you want an Air Force that can do the job,” Tarbet explained. “How wrong-headed is it to cut the most effective close support aircraft when you’re going to get rid of your A-10s? Those are virtually free platforms that are paid for.”
Hill Air Force Base has roughly 300 people that service the A-10s, and is contracted to replace the wings on more than 230 planes by 2018, in order to keep them ideally in operation until 2040.
If the A-10s are pulled out of service, American Federation of Government Employees Local 1592 President Monty Lewis said he would not anticipate a significant economic impact at Hill.
Lewis cautioned that the Hagel plan still needs to be approved, so things could change. But Hill would likely find plenty of “workload” absent the Warthogs. He predicted more service work on C130s would be directed to Hill Air Force Base.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, blasted the proposed budget cuts this week, saying solutions will not be found with them.
“This proposed budget would inflict more pain on our troops and military capabilities while other areas of federal spending, such as entitlements, seem to continue to grow unchecked,” he said in a prepared statement.
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