Friday, August 12, 2005

States Opposing Plan to Shutter Air Guard Bases


F-16's in formation

The Times ran States Opposing Plan to Shutter Air Guard Bases in yesterday's online edition. This is all part of the ongoing controversy over the Pentagon's plan (otherwise know as BRAC, Base Re-alignment and Closure) to close bases throughout the country. What attracted my attention more than anything else was how clearly this is working out to be a jobs program threat more than it is a national threat, but listen to some of these people talk and you'd swear that Osama bin-Laden himself was going to threaten the state if they lost their F-16 fighters.

The Governor of Illinois shares the following with us:

"These are the wrong recommendations, at the wrong time and for the wrong
reasons, and, on top of all that, they are illegal," said Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, a Democrat, adding that the Pentagon's plan to relocate an F-16 fighter unit in Springfield could imperil the safety of the state's 11 nuclear power plants and 28 locks and dams.

Aren't you now concerned yourself that 11 nuclear power plants and 28 locks and dams are threatened by a lack of F-16's? Well, you shouldn't be. The threats from the air, which is the only thing an F-16 or F-15 is good for in this case, fall roughly into two categories:

1. An airliner ala 9/11. The easiest and cheapest way of dealing with this is already being done, i.e. you reinforce cockpit doors so an intruder can't just walk in and take over the plane, and you increase the security awareness of those checking people boarding planes, and that's being
done in spades as it is.

2. You load a smaller plane, one which would otherwise bounce off a nuclear power plant containment vessel of a dam, with high explosives and fly it into the target. Getting that much explosive may not be that hard, though these days if it's really that easy that does beg the question why, and then finding a place where one could clandestinely load a plane with explosives isn't that easy. On top of this it'd take a lot of explosives to damage, much less destroy either of the targets the Governor mentions.

In each case, assuming an airliner and a small plane were in fact hijacked and used to attack these targets, if there were experienced pilots flying these planes all they'd have to do is take them down to about 1,000 feet off the ground and they'd be invisible to air traffic control radar throughout the country, hence there'd be no way to vector the F-16/15 to them to take them down.

Here's the deal: F-15's/16's/18's are impressive aircraft, and they're very well-designed to destroy other fighter aircraft or bombers, but they were never intended to be used in the national airspace of our country and there's no system in place that easily facilitates such use. In short, there's no reason why most of the states in this country need fighter aircraft on hand
as there's a near zero chance that they'd ever be called on to engage a threat to anything in the state (to include the great state of Illinois) and if they were it's not a given that they'd actually be able to do anything about the threat, which is why it's so important to do all the things we need to do to stop the threat before it ever takes to the air. When simple security measures like reinforcing cockpits and increased vigilance at airports can do the job, why in the world do you need a squadron of figher planes which were never designed to do (shooting down civlian aircraft over out national airspace) what you claim you need them to do? Of course the Pentagon planners responsible for these recommendations know this, and they're not interested in being caught with their pants down in the way they were for 9/11, so it does tend to cause one to wonder why they'd be putting themselves out there with, in the view of Governor Blagojevich, such a risky recommendation as eliminating many of those fighter squadrons or otherwise relocating them. In point of fact it's not nearly the risk the Governor would like to make it, but it does risk the state losing jobs and that's the crux of this matter, not national or state defense.

The other point raised in the article has to do with emergency aircraft. There may be some legitimacy to that, but here too I'm inclined to be doubtful. When the BRAC recommendations came out people went to the wall over national defense when it came to cuts in their states, but what this boils down to more than anything else is saving jobs that frankly we don't need. We have too much infrastructure and it costs us too much to keep it up and running. The Governor of Illinois says that the proposed elimination of his F-16 squadron is illegal and I suppose that's going to have to be worked out in the courts, but I don't think it's illegal for the federal government to say it wants to eliminate something it believes it no longer needs which is otherwise costing the taxpayer billions of dollars to sustain.


Blogger QuickSauce said...

Yep. The way most elected officials have been reacting to BRAC is quite sad, and I'm not altogether convinced they're sincere in their arguments. It all comes down to saving their hides from an electorate that hasn't been given the tools to see the larger picture, beyond their Congressional district. Or at least, also sadly, I hope most of these politicians understand the bigger picture, while throwing a bone to local pressures.

1:46 PM  
Blogger James said...

The way I see it all too often the politicians are every bit as myopic as you're making them out to be. That said, I can also appreciate the pressure that they're under to do something; your constituents aren't apt to consider the high ground and fall in line with something painful for them being for the greater good.

It's a screwy system, fraught with inefficiencies and conflicts of interest, but I'm not sure that there's a better way of going about this.

4:36 PM  

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