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Posted on Sat. May. 05, 2012 - 12:30 am EDT

Lawmakers lead charge to save base

‘Critical use’ of Air Guard argued

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FORT WAYNE — Rep. Marlin Stutzman hopes accumulating dozens of congressional allies from both political parties will help efforts to defend the local Air Guard base.

Stutzman, R-3rd, on Friday sent a letter with 60 congressional signatures advocating for an alternative to President Obama’s Air Force budget. The congressman wants a spending plan that “more fully employs the proven capabilities of the Air National Guard,” according to a written statement from his office.

“The (Air National Guard) is a critical component of our national air defense system, with each base successfully holding a tradition of flying fighter aircraft, airlift support, or the next generation of surveillance aircraft,” Stutzman wrote in the letter to Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Indiana Reps. Mike Pence, R-6th, Dan Burton, R-5th, Todd Young, R-9th, Larry Bucshon, R-8th, and Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, are among those signing the letter.

The Air Force announced in February a plan to shave $50 billion in costs by retiring 286 aircraft and cutting 9,900 personnel, largely from Air National Guard bases.

The proposal, subject to congressional approval, would replace the A-10 jets stationed at the local 122nd Fighter Wing with nine to 11 MC-12W turboprop planes used for surveillance, intelligence and reconnaissance missions.

The shift is expected to eliminate 152 jobs at the base, including 85 full-time personnel, as the fighter wing would no longer maintain weapons and munitions. More than 1,200 people work there, including 364 full-time airmen.

Stutzman has been a part of numerous efforts to maintain the A-10 jets at the local air base. In his letter, he highlights the fact that the Air National Guard provides 35 percent of the Air Force’s capabilities for 6 percent of its budget.

“We believe that a cost-effective and strategic FY13 Air Force budget should more fully employ the proven capabilities of the (Air National Guard),” he wrote.

Since the February announcement, Stutzman wrote that he appreciated the efforts of the U.S. military to work on a compromise regarding the issue, but he wrote the most recent proposal is not the solution.

Stutzman previously said the Air Force should reduce personnel and aircraft at overseas bases before downsizing in the U.S.

Congress has until the end of September to either pass a budget or extend appropriations for the Department of Defense, which must slash its spending by $487 billion over the next 10 years under the Budget Control Act passed last summer.

blanka@jg.net


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