A Publication of WTVP

The eagerly anticipated list of suggested military base closures and realignments was released by the Pentagon on Friday the 13th of April. For many communities around the country, it was a day that held bad news. In Illinois, the list represented a mixed bag.

For the past 18 months or so, I've helped lead a combined effort to save both the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, as well as the 183rd Fighter Wing in Springfield. Both of these Illinois Air National Guard facilities are vital to the respective communities.

The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list was welcome news to those of us here in Peoria. The 182nd not only stays open under the proposal, but the unit adds four C-130H aircraft from a unit in Tennessee. This will be a resultant increase in jobs for our local unit, as well as a positive impact on the area economy.

More importantly, though, is that through adding additional planes, the mission of the 182nd will be enhanced and, hopefully, further protected against future realignments or closures. This year's replacement of the unit's four-decade-old fleet of C-130s with a fleet of up-to-date planes was, in my estimation, a tremendous factor in the 182nd's expansion under the proposed BRAC list.

Unfortunately, the news was not nearly as welcome for the 183rd in Springfield, which will lose its fleet of F-16 fighters if the BRAC list goes through as proposed. While the state headquarters of the Illinois Air National Guard, along with some other units, would remain in Springfield, by taking away the F-16s, the Pentagon has effectively neutered the mission of the base.

The women and men who serve for the 183rd have helped protect our nation at home and in engagements abroad. For the protection of the people of Illinois, as well as nearby major metropolitan areas and the troops serving abroad, it's imperative the 183rd's planes stay at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield.

For the entire State of Illinois, the news was mixed following the disclosure of the initial BRAC list. Jobs were added at Scott Air Force Base outside of St. Louis, but the Rock Island Arsenal and Great Lakes Naval Training Center in North Chicago were both hit very hard with job losses. Overall, while no bases were completely shuttered, the state would lose almost 2,700 jobs due to BRAC realignments.

The BRAC process is far from done. Under BRAC guidelines, at least one BRAC commissioner will visit bases impacted by closures or realignment. The Congressional Delegation and state leaders also are working to bring a regional BRAC Commission hearing to Illinois.

Once the hearings and site visits are finished over the summer, the commission will forward the final closing and realignment list to the president no later than September 8. The president has two weeks to accept or reject the recommendations in their entirety. If accepted by the president, the list is then forwarded to Congress, which will have 45 legislative days to reject the recommendations. If no action is taken by Congress, or if a majority of members don't vote to reject the list, the recommendations becomes binding.

I plan to work diligently over the summer to advocate for keeping the 183rd open and the planes in Springfield. I also will work with the Peoria folks to ensure the initial recommendations for additional planes are kept in place. This process is a long way from over, and we need to continue to work in a cooperative fashion for the good of the entire state-just as we've done for the past year and a half. IBI