The Department of Defense is facing budget cuts, and Fresno's 144th fighter wing could be on the chopping block. State and local politicians are speaking out against the plan.
The west coast has depended on the 144th Fighter Wing for protection for the last six decades. A proposed plan by Air Force officials could put a halt to the mission.
Maj. Gen. David Baldwin with the California National Guard says, "At the time of declining fiscal resources, instead of cutting the National Guard, they should be growing the National Guard."
Baldwin calls the proposed cuts nuts. He says if the 144th is grounded, fighter pilots from other states would protect the area on a rotational basis. He says, "We want to keep California Air National Guards fighting that mission because Californians should be protecting California airspace."
Fresno City Councilman Larry Westerlund agrees. He says, "It makes no strategic military sense. Montana can't guard the west coast of the U.S. without a great deal of added expense."
More than a thousand airmen and women report to work at the base. If the cut is approved, it could leave them looking for a job.
Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein say they don't want to see that happen. They teamed up to send a letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
It says, "Given that the area around Fresno already suffers from current unemployment rates between 15 and 19 percent... shutting down the 144th will only exacerbate a difficult situation."
Before any changes happen, the plan has to be officially proposed to the Department of Defense. From there, it must be approved by Congress.