HomeMediaArticle Display

Panetta: National Guard, Reserve key to defense strategy

NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -- Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told the Airmen and Soldiers based at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station today their service is critical to the defense strategy.

Panetta said New York was the cradle of the United States military, and that its critical role for the armed forces continues today.

"New York's Air National Guard is the largest Air Guard in the nation, with tremendous cutting-edge capabilities," he said. "And many New York installations, including Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, are making a very important contribution to our nation's defense."

Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station is the largest employer in Niagara County. The base is home to the Air Force Reserve's 914th Airlift Wing and the Air National Guard's 107th Airlift Wing.

Together, more than 2,700 service members and civilians are assigned to the units.

Soldiers from Alpha Company, 865th Combat Support Hospital and the 1982nd Forward Surgical Team were also present for Panetta's visit. The units are among several Army Reserve and National Guard tenant units at the base.

The spirit of public service exemplified by the Reserve and National Guard is essential to democracy, Panetta said. It demonstrates a commitment to securing the nation and providing better futures for the nation's children, he added.

"This is an historic time to be serving the nation. It's an historic time to be an American. We're at a strategic turning point when it comes to our national security," Panetta said.

That turning point is the end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the resulting cuts in defense spending, he explained.

Budget cuts must be responsible, Panetta said, and undertaken in a way that allows the U.S. military to maintain its position as the strongest in the world, while not hollowing out the force.

"In the past, as we've come out of wars, whether it was World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, when we cut the defense budget, it was cut across the board and it hollowed out the force," Panetta said. "It weakened every element of our defense establishment. I am not going to repeat that mistake."

The best plan would create a defense strategy not just for today, but for the future, he said.

"We're going to be smaller, we're going to be leaner, but we have to be agile," he said. "We have to be deployable, we have to be flexible and we have to be on the cutting edge of technology," Panetta said.

Additionally, the defense strategy has to take into account potential trouble spots, such as the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East, and it must allow the United States to maintain a worldwide presence, the secretary said. It also has to enable the military to defeat more than one enemy at a time, he added.

The final consideration has to be investing in the future, Panetta said -- not just in military systems and units, but also in companies that service the military.

"I do not want to outsource our national defense to other countries," he said.

The reductions will come at a cost. "Let me be frank with you: I can't reduce the defense budget by $487 billion and not create some pain," he said.

The National Guard and Reserve hold a key role in the defense strategy, he said, and the Defense Department is committed to protecting the New York Air National Guard.

"It's the largest in the country. I think it's one of the best, and I also want to make clear that we are committed to maintaining this base for the future," Panetta said. "We're counting on this base. It's important geographically. It's important to the mission that we need to look forward to."
Panetta said investment in the base will continue and that he plans to look for additional roles for the base as the defense mission evolves.

"We're going to upgrade eight C-130s and replace them over five years with the C-130H3s," he said. "We're going to invest $6.1 million in order to create a C-130 flight simulator here."

The base now has 12 C-130H2 Hercules aircraft. They are assigned to the 914th Airlift Wing, but are operated jointly along with the 107th Airlift Wing.

Panetta also discussed potential effects on communities if Congress allows budget sequestration to take effect in January. The measure would add about $500 billion in across-the-board defense spending reductions over the next decade in addition to the $487 billion cut that's already coming.

"We have to be part of the same team, not only protecting our defense, but meeting our responsibility to our fiscal needs," he said. "Frankly, one of my biggest concerns right now for communities like Niagara Falls is not the budget that I'm working on, it's the danger of sequestration and the fact that for some crazy reason, we may walk off of that cliff."

While he expressed confidence that sequestration could still be avoided, Panetta said that if it happened, "incredible damage" to the nation's defense would result.

"It's a formula that cuts across the board," he said. "It's mindless, and it will hollow out our military. I want you to know that I am committed to do everything I can to fight for your interests, and I want you to join me to fight for what's right.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we bless ourselves with the hope that everything is going to be OK in this country," he continued, "but frankly, it doesn't mean a damn thing unless we're willing to fight for it. "The fact that you're here tells me that you are willing to fight -- to fight for that dream that brought my parents to this country, to fight for a strong America, [for] the future, and to fight for, most importantly, a government of, by and for all people."

Original content found here.
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.