GA delegation pledges to fight closure of Savannah military training center

File photo inside a hangar at the Georgia Air National Guard’s Savannah-based 165th Airlift Wing.

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File photo inside a hangar at the Georgia Air National Guard’s Savannah-based 165th Airlift Wing.

WASHINGTON — As members of Georgia’s congressional delegation analyzed President Joe Biden’s proposed budget, they discovered that amid the increased spending on national defense was a cost-cutting measure that zeroed out a local facility.

The Air National Guard’s Combat Readiness Training Center in Savannah prepares units slated for missions tied to the National Guard, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. But the White House has decided the facility duplicates work of sister facilities in Wisconsin, Michigan and Mississippi.

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, a Republican whose district includes Savannah, said It makes no sense for the Biden administration to close the center. The federal government is finishing construction of a new $24 million airplane hangar and recently made technology upgrades and other investments there, he said.

“It’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard,” Carter, R-Pooler, said. “Not only are they investing in it; now they’re ready to close it. Here we are on the brink of World War III, and we’re going to close a Combat Readiness Training Center? We ought to be opening up more. We ought to be doing just the opposite.”

The criticism from members of Georgia’s delegation has been bipartisan. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat and Savannah native, described the center as a “cost-effective national security asset crucial for regional training and coordination.”

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, an Albany Democrat, who serves on the budget subcommittee for military construction, veterans affairs, and related agencies expressed concerns about the proposal’s timing.

“In light of Ukraine and what is happening with Russia, I think it’s prudent for us to keep that capability active, and I certainly will weigh in and am weighing in to make sure that we try to make sure that it is not closed,” Bishop said.

Biden can only suggest a spending plan. Congress ultimately gets to decide what is increased or cut from the federal budget that starts each year on Oct. 1. The president’s annual budget plan is considered a blueprint that kicks off the discussions.

Closing the training center in Savannah would reduce the Air National Guard’s 165th Airlift Wing’s presence in Savannah by about 5% or 121 people, according to information provided by the National Guard. The Georgia facility was targeted because it didn’t have any unique capabilities that set it apart from the other three centers, the National Guard said, allowing the Department of Defense to save money by eliminating what was perceived as a redundant operation.

Carter said he will take the lead in ensuring that whatever budget is approved by Congress includes the money needed to keep the Savannah center open. But he believes that the entire delegation will have his back.

“We all understand that the number one responsibility of the federal government is to provide for the safety of our homeland,” he said.

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