Congressional delegation seeks 188th answers

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 87 views 

The six members of Arkansas’ Congressional Delegation sent on Tuesday (Feb. 28) a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta asking for “additional information” about the decision to remove the A-10 fighter mission from the Fort Smith-based 188th Fighter Wing.

The Air Force announced in early February its plans to remove the 20 A-10 “Warthog” planes from the 188th as part of an overall plan to cut 227 aircraft from the fleet, or about 4%. Of the 227, about 100 are A-10 aircraft. The cuts are part of an overall effort by the Department of Defense to make deep cuts in the defense budget during the next 10 years.

Moving the A-10’s out of Fort Smith is expected in fiscal year 2013. The unit employs about 350 full-time personnel, with about 1,000 on the base once a month for training. The annual economic impact of the 188th is estimated at $150 million.

A tentative 188th “re-missioning” plan would have the unit convert to operating the unmanned Predator aircraft. That mission could result in at least 300 jobs lost with the full-time ranks.

The Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce sponsored the “Save the Flying Razorbacks” website as part of an effort to gather 1,000 letters to be packaged and presented to Congressional and military leaders by Arkansas’ Congressional delegation. And leaders with the 188th/Chaffee Crossing Community Council have argued that the 188th is the most efficient A-10 unit in the Air Force.

The Congressional delegation letter reinforced that point.

“The 188th FW is a textbook model in terms of operational readiness and efficiency, while performing their mission through the most cost-effective means possible,” noted the letter signed by U.S. Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark.; and U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford, Tim Griffin, Mike Ross and Steve Womack.

Continuing, the delegation noted: “We have serious concerns regarding the criteria utilized by the Air Force to reach the FY 2013 proposal as well as the overall impact this proposal may have on the Department’s stated force structure priorities.”

Delegation members asked Panetta for “written answers” to six questions “no later than March 12.” Those questions, paraphrased, are:
• What is the justification for eliminating multiple missions and units while also requesting additional base closures?

• Did the Air Force consider recommendations in the April 2011 report, Comprehensive Review of the Future Role of the Reserve Components? And if so, which recommendations were included?

• Did the Air Fore conduct a life-cycle cost analysis of all active duty and reserve A-10 units?

• Why were reserve A-10 units targeted for closure instead of active units? (The question also asks for criteria used that “differentiated” the units.)

• How much weight was given to preserving a guard unit in each state instead of focusing on operational readiness and cost efficiencies?

• Can you provide information on how the Air Force will align its budget cuts and mission changes with cuts and changes in the other service branches?

Link here for a PDF copy of the delegation letter.

Link here for a PDF copy of a letter from Rep. Womack.