August 26, 2005

U.S. Court rules National Guard base closure illegal

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - A federal judge ruled on Friday
that the Pentagon had broken the law in seeking to close down
the 111th Fighter Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard
without first obtaining the governor's approval.

The ruling was a victory for Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell,
who challenged the Pentagon's plan to close the fighter wing at
a naval base near Philadelphia. The disputed closure, which
would cost more than 1,200 jobs, is part of round of planned
domestic military base reductions.

The case was closely watched by other U.S states affected
by the program because it could set a precedent for other
governors unhappy with Washington's plans.

Illinois has also sued the Pentagon over the plan and
Missouri has threatened similar action, saying Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had "run roughshod" over states'
Constitutional rights to run militias.

The Pennsylvania case was filed against Rumsfeld by Rendell
with Pennsylvania's Republican Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick

The 111th Fighter Wing is based at Willow Grove Naval Air
Station Joint Reserve Air Base, which is slated for closure.

Rendell had argued the air wing must be "available to me as
governor to perform state active-duty missions dealing with
homeland security, natural disasters and other state missions."

He also argued that Willow Grove was in a strategically
important location between New York and Washington, so its
forces can respond quickly to future attacks on those cities.