New video shows why they fought for the A-10
U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte and Arizona Congressman Ron Barber are speaking out on provisions regarding the A-10 aircraft included in the current version of the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. The NDAA passed by the House today prohibits any A-10 retirements in fiscal year 2015.
While Ayotte says she is “very pleased that the negotiated version of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act prohibits the Air Force from retiring, preparing to retire,” both has reservations about the language of the bill.
The NDAA allows the Air Force to place up to 36 aircraft into “backup inventory status” – a reduced operational posture – if the defense secretary certifies that an independent assessment determines the move status is needed to avoid significantly degrading the readiness of the Air Force fighter fleet.
The NDAA also requires the General Accountability Office to conduct a study evaluating the platforms used by the Air Force to conduct close air support missions and to report its findings to Congress within six months.
Barber included a GAO study in his original amendment to save the A-10 when the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) debated the defense bill in May. This amendment was approved by a strong bipartisan coalition in HASC and in the same manner in the full House.
The report will include the cost per plane of carrying out air support missions, the capabilities of each platform and a determination as to whether planes other than the A-10 are able to successfully carry out such close air support missions.
And the NDAA authorizes an additional $334 million to cover the potential cost of retaining all A-10s in their current flying status.
Ayotte calls the bill “a significant victory for our ground troops who rely on the A-10 to protect them in combat in a way that no other aircraft can.” However, she said she was “disappointed that the final package includes unnecessary language that could allow the Air Force to move up to 36 A-10 aircraft to backup flying status in order to transfer the associated maintenance personnel to other units.
“The Senate Armed Services Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, and the full House of Representatives sent a clear, strong, and bipartisan message regarding their desire to prevent the premature retirement of the A-10. The amendment adopted by the Senate Armed Services Committee on a resounding bipartisan basis this summer explicitly prohibited ‘significant changes to manning levels with respect to any A-10 aircraft squadrons.’
“As the Secretary of Defense and the Director of the office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) consider the Air Force’s likely request next year to gut the maintenance personnel for A-10s and pursue a back door divestment, I hope the Secretary of Defense and Director of CAPE will take the time to listen to the unfiltered opinions of our ground troops and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs). If they do, they will understand that the premature retirement of the A-10 will create a close air support capability gap that will seriously endanger American lives. For that reason, I will continue to fight to retain the A-10 until an aircraft with an equivalent close air support capability achieves full operational capability.”
“This is a huge step forward in providing for a strong national security, protecting our warfighters on the ground and strengthening our economy in Southern Arizona,” Barber said today.
“The A-10 is protected for another year because of our actions and the fight our community put up,” Barber added. “We worked together, Republicans and Democrats in Congress and business and community leaders in Arizona, to tell the Air Force they needed to protect our troops on the ground and sustain missions at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.”
The A-10 is the main aircraft flown at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. The 355th Fighter Wing has about 80 planes and trains A-10 pilots. Davis-Monthan delivers an economic impact in Southern Arizona of about $1 billion annually.
The legislation approved today also:
• Prohibits any transfer of Apache helicopters in fiscal 2015. Barber supported a bipartisan amendment that prohibits the Army from transferring AH-64 Apaches from the National Guard to the Army – a proposal that would have undermined the 1-285th Attack/Reconnaissance Battalion at Silverbell Army Heliport in Marana.
• Provides $350 million for the Iron Dome missile defense program and requires that 55 percent of the components for the Israeli-produced missile be made in the United States. That could mean increased work and employment for Tucson-based Raytheon Missile Systems.
• Provides additional funding for the Tomahawk cruise missile after the Obama administration sought drastic cuts to the program. The Tomahawk is built in Tucson by Raytheon.
• In the fight against cyberwarfare, the legislation has provisions to help the Pentagon recruit and retain a qualified workforce, support test and training ranges and provide for a ready force. This is good news for Fort Huachuca, where the Electronic Proving Ground and NETCOM work to defend the country against cyber-attacks.
Barber also expressed disappointment that the NDAA does not go far enough in helping service members, their families and military retirees.
It calls for only a 1 percent pay raise for service members, increases pharmacy copays for TRICARE beneficiaries and decreases housing allowances by 1 percent.
“We should be doing more for the dedicated women and men who serve our nation in the armed forces,” Barber said. “They and their families make significant sacrifices so the rest of us can live in freedom. We must do more to compensate them for those sacrifices.”
Since he went to Congress in mid-2012, Barber has been committed to working with Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress to keep the A-10 flying – despite proposals from the president and the Air Force to retire it.
One A-10 supporter said that without Barber’s efforts, “We could not have saved the jet on any level.”