MANSFIELD — Presidential election years tend to be long on partisanship and short on legislative achievement, but Ohio’s Congressional delegation has found at least one bipartisan issue to rally around in 2012.
In February, the Department of Defense announced that it wants to close the 179th Airlift Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard based at Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport, and discontinue use of the C-27J Spartan transport plane. The proposal is one piece of a larger austerity plan that comes in response to a Congressional directive to trim $487 billion from the defense budget over the next 10 years. If enacted, the moves would result in the loss of 800 jobs in Mansfield, a city that is already in a state of fiscal emergency. Another 200 Ohio jobs would be lost through cutbacks at the 121st Air Refueling Wing in Columbus and the 910th Airlift Wing in Youngstown.
The announcement has been met with swift and determined criticism by elected officials from both major parties. U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D) and Rob Portman (R) appeared together at the base in a show of support. Brown has been advocating an increased role for the base for more than a year. Portman, a member of the Senate Armed Forces Committee, said that Ohio is being asked to bear a disproportionate number of the 5,100 Air National Guard job cuts nationwide.
Opponents of the Pentagon plan attack it on two fronts: They defend the performance and cost effectiveness of the Air National Guard, and also the effectiveness of the 179th’s current mission operating the C-27J Spartan. Brown personally carried the message to Vice President Joe Biden in a meeting on Wednesday.