Union Tribune

October 23, 2003

Air Force weighs closing reserve, guard bases


WASHINGTON The Air Force's plans for the upcoming round of base closures could include an aggressive policy of closing Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve facilities and moving their units to active bases, the Air Force's top officer suggested yesterday.

"There are ways to combine units and we have to think about it," said Gen. John Jumper, the Air Force chief of staff.

The idea raised by Jumper would more than double the potential Air Force targets for the base-closing process, which is scheduled for 2005. There are about 85 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve stations, compared with about 60 active Air Force bases.

Jumper discussed the possible merger of active and reserve units during a speech on the "Total Force" concept, which calls for blending the capabilities of the military's active, Reserve and National Guard units.

Jumper said the Total Force idea has proven its worth in combat. He noted that 20 percent of the aircraft and personnel deploying with his Air Expeditionary units are from reserve and guard units, while 80 percent of the homeland security missions over the United States are flown by guard and reserve pilots.

Air Guard fighters supported Special Operations forces in western Iraq and "they did a tremendous job," he said.

"Nobody can argue with me that this doesn't work. It does work," he said. "The question is, how do we make it better?"

Now, Jumper said, it is time to start thinking about ways to use those same concepts "in the day-to-day way we look at our total force" at home.

"Where we have active duty units in close proximity to guard or reserve units doing about the same thing, it is hard for us to justify the extra expense of keeping those two places open, guarding those two bases to the higher standard that we have to guard them to after 9/11, (and) duplicating command structures, when they could be together," he said.

Although Air Guard and Reserve facilities usually are located on civilian airports and involve fewer jobs than active duty bases, they have high political profiles, which could make the proposal controversial in Congress and state governments.

Jumper acknowledged that problem by noting that any change "has to be done with the greatest respect for the militia heritage of this nation."

California has five active Air Force bases: Beale AFB near Marysville, Edwards AFB near Rosamond, Los Angeles AFB in El Segundo, Travis AFB at Fairfield and Vandenberg AFB near Lompoc. It has four Air Guard or Air Reserve facilities: Channel Island Air National Guard Station near Oxnard, Fresno Yosemite Airport at Fresno, March Armed Forces Reserve Base near Riverside and Moffett Federal Airfield at Mountain View.

Copyright 2003 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.