Gov. LePage: no decision on National Guard reduction

AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Governor LePage sent a statement Thursday that said it will be years before any decision will be made whether to change the 133rd Engineer Battalion.

The Maine Army National Guard's Adjutant General, James Campbell, caused a stir last month when he sent a letter saying it was "highly likely" that Maine would try to swap out the engineer battalion for an infantry battalion in another state. This all comes as the Obama Administration considers cuts to the Army National Guard.

In his statement, Governor LePage said he met with Campbell Thursday to talk about the proposed cuts on the federal level. He also accused Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of playing politics by leaking the proposed guard swap to the Portland Press Herald.

The statement said, "Once again, no decision has been made, nor will it be for years. This issue has been mischaracterized in the media and politicized by liberal Democratic Representatives Chellie Pingree -- whose office leaked the information to reporters -- and Mike Michaud, who are trying to make it a campaign issue. It is shameful they would use the Maine National Guard members as pawns in their election-year tactics."

For its part, the paper said it was actually members of the Maine National Guard that alerted them to the proposal by Brigadier General James Campbell, not the congresswoman. But she has spoken out against it. The office of Congressman Michaud, who is challenging Governor LePage in his re-election bid, sent a statement when the story first broke, saying that Michaud was learning more about the proposal and intended to discuss it with Campbell in the future.

It matters to Maine whether the Guard is an engineer battalion or an infantry battalion because they do very different things. In his letter to members of Congress on April 29, Brigadier General Campbell wrote that an infantry battalion would be more flexible for state and federal needs and easier to train. He also feels infantry units are less likely to be cut by the feds. Campbell wrote, "It is highly likely at this point that we will seek to make a change with another state, regardless of whether or not the cuts we are fighting against actually happen - again, we have been looking for an infantry unit for some years now."

Congresswoman Pingree has said she's concerned about the proposal because infantry units tend to have fewer opportunities for women. She also feels that engineer battalions are better equipped to help in natural disasters, and train soldiers in skills that transfer to the workforce more easily.

Thursday, Congresswoman Pingree sent a statement in response to the governor's, saying she had gotten involved because she heard from concerned members of the Maine Army National Guard, and because of Brigadier General Campbell's letter.

Her statement said, in part, "So I'm sure those Guard personnel who contacted us will be relieved to hear that there is no change, and that the Governor will fight to keep the 133d in Maine."

Governor LePage also sent a letter to President Obama today, urging the Department of Defense to reconsider any federal cuts to the National Guard. In it, he called those cuts, "penny wise, but pound foolish." The full letter can be accessed here.

Congresswoman Pingree also sent a letter to the Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, regarding the National Guard cuts.That letter can be accessed here.


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