Springfield State Journal Register

July 13, 2005

Officer: Court must end BRAC flap
Decide which law has priority, Lt. Gen. Blum says

By OTTO KREISHER
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - The nation's top National Guard officer said Tuesday it will be up to the courts to decide the dispute between state governors and the Pentagon over changes in Guard units during the Base Realignment and Closure process.

"There are two existing laws, both with conflicting authority," Lt. Gen. Steven Blum said.

One law requires the Pentagon to get a governor's permission before making significant changes in the composition or location of Guard units in his or her state. The other law, creating the BRAC process, makes no mention of the governor's authority and specifically overrides other laws that restrict what the national leadership can do with military facilities.

"When you have two laws in conflict, the courts have to decide what has priority," Blum told a breakfast session with defense reporters.

A number of governors, including Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, have threatened to sue the Pentagon over plans to move or eliminate Air National Guard units in their states. Blagojevich is protesting the Air Force's decision to move the 183rd Fighter Wing's F-16s from Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield to Indiana.

Blagojevich sent new letters to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Anthony Principi, chairman of the independent BRAC commission, on Monday telling them he does not give his permission to move the 183rd's aircraft. "The Department of Defense did not coordinate this recommendation with either my office or the Illinois adjutant general," the governor's letter said. "This lack of consultation compromises the integrity of the process used to develop the BRAC recommendations and disregards my role as commander in chief of the Illinois National Guard."

Blagojevich added that under the law, "my consent is necessary for the actions contemplated by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld with regard to the 183rd Fighter Wing."

Principi has asked U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for a formal legal opinion on the two conflicting laws. That opinion is expected soon.

Blum agreed with the complaints by the association of states adjutants general - the top Guard officer in each state - that the Air Force did not confer with the state officials before making its BRAC decisions.

"I was not involved, nor were the adjutants general, involved in the BRAC decisions" affecting the Air Guard, he said.

Blum said he did not know why the Air Force did that, adding that the protest from the adjutants general "was a predictable event."

The BRAC commission plans two days of hearings next week in which it will address the issue of the Guard changes, among other issues, and may decide to add some facilities to the list of bases being considered for closure or adjustments.