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Air Force might target guard, reserve in base closings

The Air Force's plans for the upcoming base realignment and closure round could include an aggressive policy of closing Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard facilities and moving their units to active bases, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper suggested Wednesday.

Although guard and reserve facilities usually involve far fewer jobs than active duty bases, they often have high political profiles, which could make the proposal controversial in Congress and state governments. Jumper discussed the possible merger of active and reserve units during a speech at a Capitol Hill forum held by DFI International.

After proclaiming that the "Total Force" concept of melding active, reserve and guard units has been tested in combat and proven its worth, Jumper suggested their activities needed to be even more thoroughly merged.

"There are ways to combine units and we have to think about it," Jumper said. He said the Air Force was exploring the possibility of combining active, guard and reserve personnel into new squadrons that will receive the new F/A-22 and F-35 fighters.

"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 [Sept. 11, and] duplicating command structures, when they could be together," he said.

Jumper did not provide any details or specifically mention the base closing process in his remarks.

But the prospect of closing Air Guard and Air Force Reserve facilities more than doubles the potential targets for the base-closing process, which is scheduled for 2005. There are 85 Air Guard and Air Force Reserve stations around the nation in virtually every state, many of them at civilian airports. There are about 60 active Air Force bases in the United States, although some do not have operational aircraft.