LePage says National Guard plans changing ‘as fast as most people change underwear’

Gov. Paul LePage in 2012. BDN photo by Alex Barber.

Gov. Paul LePage in 2012. BDN photo by Alex Barber.

In an impromptu meeting with reporters Friday, Gov. Paul LePage said contingency plans about how to deal with a potential reduction in Maine Army National Guard forces are “changing as fast as most people change their underwear,” but reiterated his commitment to fight any reduction to Maine’s guard forces.

As has been reported previously, Brig. Gen. James Campbell, the adjutant general of the Maine Army National Guard, has been advocating for a plan that would see the state’s storied 133rd Engineer Battalion replaced with an infantry unit.

The plan was originally floated by the National Guard Bureau as a means of absorbing cuts proposed in the Pentagon’s current budge request, which would see Army force levels reduced to their lowest level since 9/11.

But Campbell — an infantry man through and through – said in an email to congressional and LePage staffers in late April that he expected the state to pursue the swap regardless of the budget situation in Washington.

The plan has caused some controversy in recent weeks, and has revealed a rift between Campbell and LePage, who on Friday repeated his adamant opposition to any plan that would see the 500-member 133rd diminished.

He said Campbell might have expressed the adjutant general’s own interest in the plan, but that any decision delegated to the states would come from the Blaine House, not Camp Keyes.

Campbell is “a gentleman who was in the infantry, so I’m not surprised,” LePage said. “But we still have a citizen military, and I have to make the final decision.”

The governor also reasserted his own command over the guard. He said that Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree — Maine’s Democratic U.S. House delegation, who have both expressed concerns about the plan to lose the 133rd — had both requested meetings with Campbell, but would not be granted access.

“I have sent them a letter, today, telling them that I am the commander-in-chief of the National Guard, and I would be more than happy to meet with them,” LePage said.

Mario Moretto

About Mario Moretto

Mario Moretto has been a Maine journalist, in print and online publications, since 2009. He joined the Bangor Daily News in 2012, first as a general assignment reporter in his native Hancock County and, now, in the State House.