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Wisconsin National Guard Faces Budget Cuts Under New Defense Bill

3 Engineering Units Would Be Deactivated, Although No Soldiers Would Lose Their Job

Wisconsin National Guard (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Budget cuts are likely in store for the Wisconsin National Guard under the National Defense Authorization Act that the Senate approved earlier this week.

The funding bill calls for deactivating three of the state’s engineering units as part of a reduction-of-forces provision that affects military bases across the country. As a result, state officials announced Friday that the guard expects to lose 274 positions, including 151 soldiers.

The units affected include two in Chippewa Falls, and one in Hayward.

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Guard spokesman Maj. Paul Rickert said that while positions would be eliminated, no current soldiers will actually lose their jobs.

“They’ll be given opportunities to serve in other units throughout the state, either in a engineer capacity or they’ll be given the opportunity to retrain,” said Rickert. “Nobody will lose the opportunity to continue serving in the Wisconsin National Guard in those units.”

Gov. Scott Walker said he’ll work to reverse the federal budget cuts, which he said threaten the country’s security. He said the guard played an important role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he’s worried the cuts will reduce military readiness to pre-Sept. 11 levels.

“I’m going to be working with other governors and the president to make changes that will allow us to re-establish the strength of the National Guard,” he said.

Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin said the guard is a bargain for the American people, since the soldiers hold down jobs in the community while also serving in the military. She said their funding should be increased, not cut.

That said, both Baldwin and Republican Sen. Ron Johnson voted for the bill that includes cutting the guard funding, as did five of Wisconsin’s seven lawmakers in the House of Representatives. Only Reps. Mark Pocan of Madison and Gwen Moore of Milwaukee voted against it.