Montana Takes on the U.S. Air Force

     GREAT FALLS, Mont. (CN) – Montana’s governor sued the Pentagon in Federal Court to stop it from moving 15 fighter jets to California, claiming that Montana may need the planes for “effective response to domestic emergencies.”
     Gov. Brian Schweitzer sued the secretaries of Defense and the Air Force in his capacity as commander of the Montana National Guard, claiming in a statement that “It is essential that the Montana Air National Guard retain the ability to carry out its dual role mission of effective response to domestic emergencies.”
     Schweitzer asked a federal judge to stop Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley from moving the 15 F-15s from an Air National Guard base in Great Falls to Fresno.
     In his statement, Schweitzer claimed, “the State of Montana is left with no choice but to act to prevent a mission gap that would leave the Montana Air National Guard at enormous risk.”
     Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock said in the statement that moving the jets would “cause irreparable harm” to the Montana Air National Guard “and to the safety and security of the state of Montana.”
     In his lawsuit, Schweitzer claims that moving the jets, part of a three-year Air Force restructuring plan, violates 32 U.S.C. § 104(c), “requiring the consent of the governor for decisions which change the allotment of personnel and property available for state duties.”
     He claims that the Air Force “intends to begin the transfer of the F-15s within the next two weeks by moving several truckloads of avionics equipment.”
     Four F-15 are to be moved in August, two more in September, and the remaining nine jets in 2013, the complaint states.
     In exchange, eight C-130 aircrafts were to be moved from Texas to Great Falls in 2013. But those transfers were postponed to 2014.
     “The result of the potential lag time between the transfer of the F-15s and the transfer of the replacement C-130s is that the Montana Air National Guard would be without any planes for up to 18 months,” the complaint states.
     “The proposed transfer of F-15s would change the allotment of the Montana Air National Guard, a unit located entirely within Montana, and the governor has not granted his approval for this action.”
     Though neither the complaint nor the press statement mentioned what sort of domestic emergency might require Montana to have its own fighter jets, the governor said in the statement that 800 Air Guardsmen are attached to the 120th Fighter Wing in Great Falls, and that their jobs bring $66 million to the city’s economy each year, plus $15 million a year in fuel bought from a Montana refinery.
     “Not only would this move put Montanans at risk by exporting fighter jets out of state with no replacement, it would jeopardize the jobs of the dedicated servicemen and women who stand ready to carry out state and national missions at any moment,” Bullock said in the statement. “The National Guard is a critical component of Montana’s character and a vibrant part of our economy.”

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