By Bill Crawford / Guest Columnist
The Meridian Star
The “Tupelo Tea Party” last week distributed a disinformation flyer concerning the National Guard's 155th Brigade Combat Team in Mississippi.
The flyer’s premise was that the historic 155th will be shut down because Senator Thad Cochran voted to confirm Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense and Hagel is a “yes man” for President Obama.
“It's time Senator Cochran is held responsible for putting Mississippi in this situation,” says the flyer.
False premise. Twisted facts.
In reality, the Tea Party put Mississippi in this situation.
It was the Tea Party push for budget cuts that resulted in the “sequester” that slashes $500 billion from military budgets over 10 years. Such steep cuts require reductions in force.
Mississippi is blessed with more than its share of outstanding active duty military, National Guard, and Air National Guard missions and facilities. That didn’t happen by accident. Senator Cochran, former Senator Trent Lott, former Congressman and now Senator Roger Wicker, the late Congressman G. V. “Sonny” Montgomery, and former Congressman Gene Taylor – all of whom had clout on defense or appropriations committees – spent years building up these missions and facilities. Newer congressmen have helped maintain them.
As the military makes cuts, our numerous missions and facilities can’t help but be impacted, along with those in other states. Fighting off Army, Navy, and Air Force attempts to make deep cuts to Mississippi units will be hard.
The issue with the 155th is part of an intense tug-of-war between General Raymond Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, and National Guard leadership. Odierno wants to maintain as many active duty combat-ready units as possible. The National Guard says its combat-ready units should stay because they cost one-third of what active duty units cost. (Hagel wants fewer, better armed, active duty units.)
Odierno would deactivate six National Guard Brigade Combat Teams from 28 nationwide. The 155th could be one of them. The active duty Army also covets the Apache attack helicopters at the 155th Army Aviation Support Facility in Tupelo.
Senator Cochran and other Republican members of the Mississippi congressional delegation are on top of this issue. Early last week, the senator joined with Tea Party favorite Senator Mike Lee, Senator Lindsey Graham and others to introduce legislation that would halt the active duty Army plan. Congressman Steven Palazzo voted later in the week to include a provision in the House Defense Authorization Bill that does the same.
Just as it takes congressional clout to gain military missions and facilities, it will take clout to keep them. We learned that lesson well during the BRAC rounds.
So, Tupelo Tea Party, if we want to keep the 155th, we need to keep Senator Cochran. Nobody has and uses clout for our military as well as he does.
Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.