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WDAY: The News Leader

Published April 24, 2012, 06:47 PM

Chamber of Commerces hires lobbyist to assist in air base fight

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The North Dakota Air National Guard is in serious jeopardy of losing its manned flying mission, which could cost the metro's economy millions. But the community is not giving up.

By: WDAY Staff Reports, WDAY

The North Dakota Air National Guard is in serious jeopardy of losing its manned flying mission, which could cost the metro's economy millions. But the community is not giving up.

The Chamber of Commerce has formed the Air National Guard Support Group. Headed by President Craig Whitney, the group has hired a Washington Lobbyist to support its interest, but not just any lobbyist.

Paul Weaver is the former head of the entire Air National Guard.

Paul Weaver – Former Head of Air National Guard: “If you want to save money in our active duty force, put the iron and the man power in the guard.”

Former Major General Paul Weaver retired in 2002 after 35 years of military service, the last three spent as the director of the air national guard, with more than 104,000 people under his command. Now this Washington lobbyists' focus will be on Fargo and protecting the Happy Hooligans.

Paul Weaver: “Fargo Moorhead has set the standard more than most.”

Proposed defense budget cuts are trying to trim the guard force by 5,000 people and more than 200 aircraft, including the C-27 that was scheduled to come to Fargo.

Paul Weaver: “This C-27 mission was made for the guard, is made for the guard, great homeland defense aircraft and could be stationed no better place than here in Fargo-Moorhead.”

Craig Whitney – President, Chamber of Commerce: “We also want to be sure that we keep our predator mission that's here.”

The Happy Hooligans currently operate the C-21 jet mission, but that will be retired in 2013.

Craig Whitney: “It's very important to the chamber and to the business community. A lot of people don't realize that it has a direct $70 million impact on Fargo-Moorhead.”

Paul Weaver: “Don't count it out; don't count it out at all.”

If the defense budget doesn't change, North Dakota would become the only state without a manned flying mission.

Guard officials say the base would still be active, but become more of an intelligence unit.

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