VIDEO: McCain ‘guardedly optimistic’ Fargo’s flying mission will stay

FARGO – The ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee says he’s “guardedly optimistic” Fargo’s flying mission will be maintained through defense legislation working its way through Congress.

Former presidential candidate and current Arizona Sen. John McCain toured Fargo’s Air National Guard base this afternoon as a special guest of North Dakota’s Republican leaders.

Senator John McCain visits the North Dakota Air National Guard base on Saturday to review the Predator and C21 missions along with the transition to the C-27J mission. Joining Sen. McCain is Congressman Rick Berg (Left) Senator John Hoeven (Center) and Governor Jack Dalrymple (Right). June 9, 2012. Jesse Trelstad / The Forum

A proposal by the Department of Defense threatens to make North Dakota the only Air Guard unit in the country without a flying mission.

The C-21 jets the guard flies now are to be retired by the end of this year, but the C-27J cargo planes that were due to replace them have been canceled.

McCain said the North Dakota Air National Guard is owed the C-27Js since that was the original promise when the F-16s were pulled from Fargo’s base several years ago.

He said the Department of Defense’s proposal to scrap the C-27Js “violated that previous commitment,” and he praised North Dakota Republicans Rep. Rick Berg and Sen. John Hoeven for their efforts to restore the cargo planes.

McCain was highly critical of the Obama administration and attempts to cut military funding as a means to reduce national spending.

“These draconian measures could inhibit our ability to defend this nation,” McCain said.

North Dakota’s congressional delegation has been working for several months to restore the C-27Js through the National Defense Reauthorization Act, which passed the House a few weeks ago.

Like the House bill, the Senate’s version also includes provisions to restore the C-27J’s for Fargo’s Air Guard base.

McCain said there’s still more work to be done on legislation but he’s hopeful that the final bill will include the C-27Js.

While in North Dakota, McCain will also headline a Republican Party fundraiser and rally tonight in south Fargo.

The political event comes just three days ahead of North Dakota’s primary election, where voters will decide contested races for the U.S. House and Senate.

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