Conn. Still Faces Fight Over National Guard Planes
By Susan Haigh
Associated Press
December 28, 2011

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- The Connecticut Air National Guard has no guarantee from the federal government that it will receive four C-27 aircraft in 2013 to replace older planes, according to the state's top military commander.

Maj. Gen. Thaddeus Martin, the adjutant general of the Connecticut National Guard, told The Associated Press that he believes the guard's chances to get the planes are 50-50, even though President Barack Obama's request of $480 million to build nine of the C-27 Spartan cargo planes was authorized by Congress earlier this month.

The federal defense budget for fiscal 2012 remains unsettled, and Martin said Connecticut won't find out until likely the first week of February as to whether funding for the planes will be included in the president's final budget proposal. If it is in Obama's budget, he said it's unclear whether the Congress will agree to proceed with the C-27 program or cut the cargo planes to save money.

"The real question is - are they going to scuttle the program and walk away from it, starting in '13," Martin asked. "That's what we're waiting to see."

Currently, there are nine C-21 Learjet planes housed at the Bradley Air National Guard Base in East Granby. Those jets are slated to be replaced in two years with the larger, multifunction C-27 Spartan cargo planes. The new aircraft can transport personnel and cargo, and are capable of landing on small, unapproved runways.

Martin has said that the program is vulnerable because not all the money has been spent to fund all 38 planes the military has ordered for National Guard units across the country, and the Air Force is looking for places to make spending cuts. If the C-27s are ultimately scrapped, Connecticut's flying mission could be in jeopardy.

The state has had an Air National Guard since 1923.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney and other Connecticut officials have been lobbying to make sure the state receives the new planes or other aircraft.

Connecticut has 1,144 employees authorized for its Air National Guard, most covered by federal funding. That figure includes 340 full-time positions at facilities at Bradley and in Orange. Besides aviators and plane maintenance workers, there are support crews that include firefighters, engineers and service workers.

The state is able to tap Air Guard personnel, as well as their equipment, during times of emergency.