Obama to land at threatened base

Air Force One is shown. | AP Photo

Mansfield Air National Guard Base has bipartisan support. | AP Photo

Mansfield Air National Guard Base is home to the 179th Airlift Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard and the C-27J, a mid-size cargo transport plane. Obama’s budget request for the new fiscal year would cut those planes in favor of the bulkier, more expensive C-130 aircraft. And with no use for the C-27J, the base would become obsolete.

“This plane can operate at about 2,100 bucks an hour. The larger C-130 that the Air Force is proposing to have replace this operates between 6 and 7,000 bucks an hour. And frankly, a lot of these missions, you don’t fill up the plane,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told Ohio Public Radio. “So this is a much more cost-effective way to accomplish a really important mission,”

The base has bipartisan support. The state’s other senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown, called Obama’s decision to cut the aircraft “penny wise but pound foolish.”

Col. Michael Howard, 179th Airlift Wing vice commander, said he was going to line up the planes along the tarmac so that Obama will see them when he lands.

”It’s critically important to us. We’re still very optimistic about keeping the C-27Js,” Howard said. ”We couldn’t do anything without the community support. We’re in a waiting game. But we’re very optimistic.” Howard told the Mansfield News Journal.

When asked by ABC News why the president was visiting a U.S. military base that would most likely shut down under his budget proposal, Carney said he’d have to look into it.

“I’m not aware of even the policy implications or what issue you’re discussing,” he said.

Later, White House spokesman Joshua Earnest told POLITICO that Obama was trying to find a new mission for the service members at the base.

“After President Obama ended the war in Iraq and began winding down our military presence in Afghanistan, Democrats and Republicans in Congress agreed to tough cuts in defense spending. Military leaders, including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, developed a strategy for military restructuring that will impact the C-27J fleet, whose missions can also be fulfilled by the larger C-130 aircraft,” Earnest said.

“That said,” he went on, “the president is committed to working with the Department of Defense to find a mission for Mansfield Lahm Air National Guard Base, so that the men and women who serve there can continue to make their important contribution to our national security.”