According to Arizona Senator Jeff Flake’s staff, they will begin “pushing back” in response to an article about the fate of the A-10. Staff member Julie Katsel indicated that the article published here, at The Arizona Daily Independent, was inaccurate in that it gave the appearance that Flake had given a timeline for the plane’s demise.
The ADI reported on an interview Flake gave on the James T. Harris radio show. In that interview, Flake admits to not knowing about the Program Objective Memorandum (POM), which is the source of the “worst fears,” but confirms that the A-10 will not merely experience a reduction in force, but will not be in force at all if the Air Force has its way. “We’ve known for a while that the F-35 is supposed to replace what we have, and that at some point,” said Flake, “we’re going to move away from the A-10.”
Flake issued a statement on Tuesday as part of his “push back” effort: “When Senator Flake was in Tucson recently, he was asked to comment on the future of the A-10 at Davis-Monthan AFB. Senator Flake did not comment on any timetable for the A-10, nor does he have information on any such timetable. He said that the Air Force wants to eventually phase out the A-10, which is no secret.”
The news was indeed a secret to the average Tucsonan, and it devastated the residents further who had just lost the F-35 to Luke Air Force base in the Phoenix area.
Ultimately, the push back from Flake is a result of the push back he is getting from constituents who felt like the Senator dropped an A-10 bomb on them with his cavalier revelation about the Air Force’s plans.
Flake’s staff said the Senator did not want the community to learn of the Air Force’s plan “at this time.” They argue that it would be better for the community to not know about the plans so that they can rally in support of the Davis Monthan Air Force Base because Tucson Forward, a small fringe group, might rally against it.
An article appeared in CQ Roll Call entitled “Plan to Replace A-10 Fighter Prompts Concerns About Gap in Close Air Support,” stating the “Senate Armed Services Committee has asked the Air Force to conduct a study to determine whether the retirement of the A-10 ground-attack fighter and its replacement by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would lessen the service’s ability to provide close air support to ground forces, potentially raising the question of whether the military needs an additional kind of fighter jet in the future.”
The article notes that a study would “be conducted in the context of a fiscally constrained Air Force, already hard-pressed to find the funds for a host of new developments that include the F-35A variant, a tanker and a bomber, among other major acquisitions that it plans over the next few decades. In fiscal 2013, the Air Force proposed to retire five squadrons of A-10s, but Congress blocked the move. The service had hoped to retire all A-10s by the late 2020s.”
The article mentions that “one senior congressional aide suggested concerns about replacing the A-10 are overstated. The GOP aide argued that the fast-moving F-16 and its 20 mm cannon have performed admirably in the close air support mission, as has the B-1 bomber.” It is that sentiment, and recently developed POMs that are the foundation of the fears Flake confirmed in his radio interview. The political will to save the A-10 was not evident in Flake and not currently visible on Capitol Hill or in POMs.
Should an A-10 unfriendly POM be the prevailing choice, the A-10 will be mothballed and Davis Monthan will have a slow but certain death. Area residents feel the death is certain due to the area’s representatives who have shown little interest in saving the A-10 or Davis Monthan. Only Congressman Ron Barber has come to the defense and one of his potential rivals in the upcoming election, Ed Martin.
While Flake claims he is enlisting the assistance of groups such as the Southern Arizona Leadership Coalition, a small group of the area’s mostly corporate upper-middle managers, and the inept Tucson Chamber of Commerce (which has overseen the slow destruction of what was left of the business community due to its perpetual grab for corporate welfare rather than programs to benefit the small business owners), the grassroots are demanding to know the truth.
Martin went on the radio after reports of Flake’s “push back” efforts and said that the community doesn’t want a handful of big wigs making secret deals. He argued that the community could and would step up to save The Hog and the base, if given a heads up and the opportunity. Flake’s secrecy would have deprived the community of the opportunity to fight for the men and women who fight for them.