Senators Peters, Stabenow Urge Full Funding for Selfridge Air National Guard Base’s A-10 Program
U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters today urged Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Ranking Member Dick Durbin (D-IL) to fully fund the A-10 program, which is located at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Senators Stabenow and Peters highlighted the importance of the A-10 fleet in military combat and requested a suitable alternative be found before a decision is made to retire the fighter jets.
The letter reads in part: "At this time, no other aircraft is able to engage in the difficult, close proximity missions with the level of success as the A-10. ... We respect the difficult budgetary decisions our Armed Forces have to face while protecting our troops and achieving operational successes. However, retiring the A-10 before suitable alternatives, capable of the same level of operational engagement, are ready is unwise."
More than 4,000 full-time civilian and military personnel work at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. The base contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to Michigan's economy each year.
The full text of the letter can be found below:
Dear Chairman Cochran and Vice Chairman Durbin:
As members of the Michigan delegation, we urge you to fully fund the A-10 program as you complete the FY2016 Defense Appropriations bill.
The A-10 continues to show its unique capabilities for providing close air support (CAS). Given the United States' current military engagements in the Middle East fighting against ISIS, and protecting NATO countries in Eastern Europe, the aircraft program must be continued until a suitable alternative is in place.
We oppose efforts to cut the A-10 program piece by piece so that it cannot complete its missions. Last year, Congress allowed the Air Force to shift maintenance crews to the F-35 and reduce its flying hours. Recently, 18 A-10 planes were placed on back up Backup-Aircraft Inventory (BAI) status and will not be flying. This means that instead of waiting for the best analysis concerning how best to meet the CAS support needs of our troops, eventually by cutting hours, crews, and planes, the Air Force will be justified in prematurely ending the entire program.
The Air Force continues to cite the cost savings associated with the cutting the A-10 but we believe this approach does not fully consider recent investments in the A-10 and the cost effectiveness of its operations compared to other aircrafts. In 2007, the Air Force invested in upgrades to the A-10 that it said would enable the aircraft to keep flying for another three decades. Further, a sortie conducted by an A-10 is much cheaper than the F-16, the F-15, and the F-22.
At this time, no other aircraft is able to engage in the difficult, close proximity missions with the level of success as the A-10. In a letter to the Secretary of Defense last November, the Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTACs), who as you know are specialists in CAS, said that "F-15s, F-16s, and B-1s cannot replicate the CAS capabilities of the A-10, and we know from combat experience that the elimination of the A-10 before a viable replacement achieves full operational capability will cost American lives."
We should not dismiss the men and women serving in the Army and Marines Corps who continue to recount how valuable the A-10 is for protecting troops under fire and saving lives. In January, Maj. Parvin and Capt. Cavazos received the Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor for saving the lives of 6 marines in Afghanistan. These pilots flew through heavy layers of clouds and dusk to protect marines who had been ambushed by insurgents. Marines on the ground that night say they are certain they wouldn't have made it out alive without the CAS supported provided by Parvin and Cavazos.
We respect the difficult budgetary decisions our Armed Forces have to face while protecting our troops and achieving operational successes. However, retiring the A-10 before suitable alternatives, capable of the same level of operational engagement, are ready is unwise.
Therefore, we request you fully authorize the funding required for the A-10, and take no additional action to divest or move additional planes to back up status in 2016.
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