Defense bill headed to U.S. Senate would keep Apache Helicopters at Fort Indiantown Gap

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Vice President Biden Holds Roundtable On Gun Control In PhiladelphiaWASHINGTON, DC (WPMT)  U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) announced today that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which has already passed the House and is likely to pass the Senate this week, contains language that would protect military assets, like Apache helicopters, from being moved away from Pennsylvania National Guard Units. The omnibus appropriations act also prevents funds from being used to divest these important assets in 2015.  The Pennsylvania National Guard has 24 Apache attack helicopters with 350 soldiers.    Eight Apaches are stationed at Ft. Indiantown Gap and 24 are assigned to the 104th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion in Johnstown.

PA Guard members play a crucial role in maintaining these assets and preparing them for use in the field. Moving these assets away from PA units could erode the role that the National Guard plays in the nation’s defense and endanger the future of these facilities. Casey wrote a letter to Secretary Hagel on the issue and weighed in with key officials at the Defense Department. He also visited Ft. Indiantown Gap in October to speak with the Guard members who fly and maintain these helicopters.

“The women and men of Pennsylvania’s National Guard have made incredible sacrifices on behalf of our nation and contributed to keeping our country safe,” Senator Casey said. “As we draw down in Afghanistan and consider the future shape of our Armed Forces, it’s important that the National Guard continue to play a significant role in our national defense. The Guard has proven over and over again that it is efficient and effective. More work remains to be done to preserve the PA National Guard’s air capabilities in the long run, and I’ll continue to press the Administration to maintain a robust role for the National Guard in our national defense and in responding to disasters here at home.”

The full text of the letter can be seen below:

Honorable Charles T. Hagel
Secretary
U.S. Department of Defense

Dear Secretary Hagel:
We write to express our deep concern with the Department of the Army’s proposal to cut Army National Guard combat aviation assets and force structure. While we are aware that the Army’s budget request for fiscal year 2015 is pre-decisional, every indication including public statements and briefings from Army leadership on Capitol Hill suggests the decision was made without meaningful consultation with the Army National Guard. This shortsighted approach creates unnecessary risk to our national security at the expense of incredibly capable attack aviation assets in the Army National Guard.
It has also come to our attention that the Guard has attempted to work with the Army on ways to implement necessary budget cuts by proposing alternatives that satisfy the Army National Guard’s proportional share of reductions required by the Budget Control Act. Their proposal sustains Army National Guard aviation force structure and garners savings from other areas while assuming minimal readiness risk and sustaining much needed capacity for national defense and unforeseen contingencies.
As you know, the country has invested so much in the men and women of our National Guard to ensure that they are an augmentable, operational force. We need to continue to organize, train, equip, and manage them in a manner commensurate with their invaluable role in national security. To squander these investments would be an incredibly shortsighted mistake.
Therefore, we strongly recommend that you work with the Army and the National Guard on a solution that fully takes into account national security needs as well as state domestic response obligations. We are confident that a resolution can be reached. However, in the absence of a reasonable solution, Congress will look for ways to ensure that the Total Army is balanced in ways that meet our nation’s security interests, now and in the future, that take into account Total Army requirements, capabilities and costs. In addition, because the Army’s current proposal to cut Guard attack aviation assets creates unnecessary and irreversible impact to our combat aviation force, we would also look to prevent all Army National Guard aviation force structure transfers and retirements until further review.
Our country deserves the best Army we can afford to meet the nation’s most urgent threats – one that is smaller, expandable, interchangeable and experienced. We believe the National Guard can be part of a cost effective security solution that retains affordable security for peacetime as well as the ability to respond to unforeseen, future contingencies.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator