In February, the Air Force announced its budget proposal for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, which begins October 1st of this year. Included in this budget proposal was a plan to eliminate the A-10 mission of the 188th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard in Fort Smith, Arkansas. According to the Air Force, this proposal is based on new Air Force strategy guidelines and an effort to curb discretionary spending.
The 188th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard in Fort Smith is home to the Flying Razorbacks and employs nearly 1,000 members in both full-time and part-time capacities. The 188th Fighter Wing has always proven itself to be of great value to the Air Force. Its readiness and capabilities have been demonstrated at home and overseas through multiple deployments including monitoring our nation's skies after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The 188th Fighter Wing is a model of operational readiness and efficiency, while utilizing the most cost-effective means possible to perform its missions. It combines the lowest-cost fighter aircraft with one of the lowest base operating costs in the military. It also has some of the newest and most modern facilities in the Air National Guard, which has existing capacity for additional partnerships with little or no modification. In addition, due to the adjacent Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center, the 188th exercises joint military training capabilities with Navy SEALS, Air Force Special Operators, and Army Green Berets leading to increased and specialized training for future missions.
Protecting the homeland and ensuring the safety of all American citizens is one of the few powers specifically designated to Congress in the U.S. Constitution, and it is a duty I take very seriously. The Department of Defense's proposed elimination of the of the A-10 Warthog flying mission from the 188th Fighter Wing could have a negative impact on our troops, the Fort Smith region, the State of Arkansas, and our national security.
Therefore, I joined Arkansas's entire congressional delegation in sending the Secretary of Defense two letters -- the first on February 28, 2012 and the second on April 18, 2012 - encouraging the Secretary of Defense and the Air Force to re-think the proposed elimination of the A-10 flying mission of the 188th and seeking answers to key questions concerning the criteria utilized by the Air Force to reach their FY 2013 budget proposal. We have yet to receive this information, but we remain committed to obtaining these answers in order to analyze their budgeting process and to address the questions, concerns, and needs of all Arkansans on this issue.
While I support the Department of Defense's efforts to curb discretionary spending, it must be done responsibly and in a way that identifies and preserves the most cost-effective and efficient military units, like the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith, instead of eliminating them.
As your United States Congressman, I will keep fighting to ensure a successful future for the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith, and I will continue working with our entire Arkansas congressional delegation and the Air Force to reach the best outcome possible for our troops, the Fort Smith region, the State of Arkansas, and our nation.