Pentagon reduces cuts to Air Guard, C-130s after local, congressional pressures

“It’s clearly moving in the right direction and restoring some proportionality,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) told reporters Tuesday.

Panetta has warned Congress not to change too much in the Pentagon budget request, which was the first that faced a cut of $487 billion over the next decade.

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But in a letter to lawmakers, Panetta wrote: “We recognize the important role these lift aircraft play in our support to civil authorities and to states — particularly in the event of national disasters.”

The decision to amend the budget request to Congress is the first major change the Pentagon has made since releasing its new strategy and slimmed-down budget earlier this year.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who opposes the full $487 billion the Pentagon plans to cut, said that one option he could support is adding an extra $400 million to the Air Force budget in order to make up the difference.

“I would support maybe even a bigger increase in the Air Force budget to make sure we don’t lose the air force’s reserve component and capability,” Graham said. “It’s something I’d certainly be open minded to.”

The Council of Governors, a bipartisan group of governors that President Obama formed in 2010, helped with the lobbying campaign for the Air Guard and C-130s. The group has been negotiating with the Pentagon since the budget was released in February, and it had originally proposed an even greater restoration to the Air Guard budget that was rejected by the Air Force two weeks ago, according to the Air Force Times.

Washington state Gov. Chris Gregorie, co-chair of the council, said she was “pleased” by the compromise proposal from the Pentagon, which she said recognized “the guard’s vital role overseas and here at home.”

“The Council of Governors is in the process of reviewing that submittal,” she said.