PORTLAND, Maine — Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday morning announced that a federal commission will study any redeployment of Maine’s National Guard units.
LePage, speaking at an unannounced State House press conference, also said he does not make the final decision about what happens to the 133rd Engineer Battalion of the Maine Army National Guard, which could be swapped for an infantry unit.
“This is not a state issue – it’s a national issue,” LePage said. “It’s a big discussion. As it turns out it looks like Congress is stepping in and finally making a decision that is appropriate – they are going to set up a commission to study it. Enough said of that one.”
LePage was joined by Brig. Gen. James Campbell, the guard’s adjunct general, at the impromptu gathering, which was not announced ahead of time. Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s press secretary, sent media outlets a six-minute audio clip of LePage’s remarks after the event was held.
LePage said the potential relocation of the 133rd, which provides highly valued disaster relief and community service in Maine, is being driven by national military cutbacks. The governor did not address discrepancies between the administration’s public statements about the proposed transfer and an email Campbell sent last month to the congressional delegation saying the move was set to occur in 2015.
“It is highly likely at this point that we will seek to make a change with another state, regardless of whether or not the cuts we are fighting against actually happen,” Campbell wrote in the email April 29. “Again, we have been looking for an infantry unit for some years now.”
LePage also said Tuesday that Maine has a history of hosting infantry units before the 1960s, when the 133rd Engineer Battalion was established here.
The governor also said he has been told that women will no longer be banned from infantry service in 2016, an apparent response to critics of the move, who have argued that engineering battalions offer more training opportunities for women.