WASHINGTON, DC In an effort to prevent the United States Air National Guard (ANG) from reducing its numbers in Rhode Island, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) today led the Rhode Island delegation in sending a letter to the ANG requesting that it reconsider any decision to do so. Due to budget constraints, the ANG is considering eliminating four of eight existing Combat Communications Group Headquarters across the country, including one in Coventry, Rhode Island. "It is my hope that the Air National Guard reconsiders eliminating these highly-skilled positions. Their duties are critical not only to Rhode Island, but to the entire nation," said Reed, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.The Combat Communications team in Rhode Island provides important communications services to the United States Air Force and supports Rhode Island state authorities with organized, equipped and trained forces.Forty members of the Rhode Island Air National Guard 281st Combat Communications unit were recently deployed to New Mexico to help patrol the border."The Rhode Island Combat Communications Group provides many important services to our state, while at the same time keeping us safe," said Reed. "My colleagues and I in the Rhode Island delegation are very concerned that the elimination of these important communications forces will leave both our state and the nation vulnerable." In recent years, Combat Communications Groups have assumed a larger role in command, control, communications and computer support for our Homeland Defense Operations. The Rhode Island Group has worked closely with USNORTHCOM. Individuals assigned to Combat Communications Groups receive years of training and are highly-skilled.A copy of the text of the letter follows:August 4, 2006 Lieutenant General Craig R. McKinleyDirector, Air National Guard1000 Air Force Pentagon Rm 4E128Washington, DC 20330-1000 Dear Lt. Gen. McKinley: It has come to our attention that the Air National Guard is considering eliminating four of the eight existing Combat Communications Group Headquarters. While we are fully aware of the pressure to reduce end strength numbers in compliance with PBD 720, we are very concerned that eliminating such critical Air Force Specialty Codes will leave us vulnerable. These heavily tasked mobility positions have a proven value that has been demonstrated in all of our major contingencies from the Global War on Terror to Hurricane Katrina and Rita. These eight Groups also are assuming a larger role in the Command, Control, Communications, and Computer support for our Homeland Defense Operations. In the case of our Rhode Island Group, this has led to a close working relationship with USNORTHCOM which continually relies on the 281st CCG for assistance. The skills required to operate at the Group level require years to develop; as such, we must not be hasty to eliminate such a critical resource that cannot be easily replaced. We request that you update us regarding your restructuring plan as it pertains to the Combat Communications Groups. Further, we strongly encourage you to consider other less critical, non-mobility positions for elimination before targeting a resource that has served all levels of our National Defense structure so well. Thank you for your attention to this important matter, and we look forward to your response. Sincerely, Jack Reed United States Senator Lincoln D. Chafee United States Senator Patrick J. KennedyUnited States Representative James R. LangevinUnited States Representative