Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s efforts to keep the F-16s of the Illinois Air National Guard’s 183rd Fighter Wing at the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport in Springfield received a much-needed boost in mid March. The Springfield Journal-Register reported March 21 that a federal appeals court March 11 sent the dispute back to the federal district court in Springfield that had dismissed the case twice before on procedural grounds. This time the court must address the case on its merits. Blagojevich is challenging the Pentagon over the BRAC 2005 decision to strip the 183rd FW of its 15 F-16s. The governor argues that only he, not DOD, has the authority to order such a move. “We are certainly pleased that the appellate court sees this matter as we do, as something of great national importance to be decided on the merits of the case rather than on a technicality,” Blagojevich’s spokesman David Rudduck told the SJ-R. “We look forward to having our day in court and are confident that we will prevail.” Barring a victory, the F-16s are due to leave the wing by the end of this fiscal year, the newspaper reported, citing a wing spokeswoman. In January, Blagojevich asked Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne to reconsider the move, or, at the very least, assign the new C-27 transport to the wing if the fighters must go.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.