Today, U.S. Congressman Mike Ross of Prescott requested that the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee hold a field hearing in Fort Smith, Arkansas to address the proposed mission changes at the 188th Fighter Wing, Arkansas Air National Guard (ANG), Fort Smith, Arkansas.
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.
In a letter sent to Representative Randy Forbes, Chairman, and Representative Madeleine Bordallo, Ranking Member, of the Readiness Subcommittee, Ross questions whether the Air Force and Department of Defense considered unit savings, joint military training capabilities and existing military infrastructure in developing their FY 2013 budget proposal that eliminates the A-10 Mission of the 188th Fighter Wing, and calls for a field hearing in Fort Smith to discuss these issues.
The full text of the letter is below:
May 8, 2012
Dear Chairman Forbes and Ranking Member Bordallo:
I write regarding the proposed mission changes at the 188th Fighter Wing, Arkansas Air National Guard (ANG), Fort Smith, Arkansas and request that the Readiness Subcommittee hold a field hearing in Fort Smith to address this issue.
I strongly believe that removing fighter aircraft from Fort Smith, Arkansas, is not fiscally sound and will significantly affect joint training. While I understand that the proposed force structure changes are the result of a constrained budgetary environment, I am concerned the Air Force may not have developed a robust basing plan and cost analysis to help guide mission assignments.
The A-10s at Fort Smith combine the lowest-cost fighter aircraft and command with one of the lowest-cost bases. With the closest and one of the largest training airspace in the force, 188th pilots train more while flying shorter missions. This equates to significantly fewer required flight hours than other Air Force squadrons. While active duty fighter readiness has recently suffered due to reduced flight hour funding, Fort Smith has repeatedly returned flight hours, resulting in millions of dollars in taxpayer savings. In addition, Fort Smith has among the lowest base operating costs in the military. This includes the lowest housing costs and energy costs per square foot in the ANG.
Due to the adjacent Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center, Arkansas ANG pilots, together with Navy SEALS, Air Force Special Operators, and Army Green Berets routinely plan, execute and debrief robust combat scenarios in the nearby training areas. This degree of face-to-face interaction exponentially increases the skills used in future combat.
The size, availability, and base proximity provide for one of the best training areas in the ANG. Additionally, strong community support and sparsely populated training areas minimize environmental and encroachment limitations. This airspace provides the ideal location for the A-10 mission and future fighter aircraft missions. The 188th Fighter Wing has some of the newest and most modern facilities in the ANG. This state-of-the-art airbase saves taxpayer dollars and has existing capacity for additional partnerships with little or no modification.
For these reasons, I question if the Air Force considered unit savings, joint military training capabilities and existing military infrastructure in developing their FY 2013 budget proposal.
I, along with other members of the Arkansas delegation, have repeatedly asked to see the cost analysis used by the Air Force and the Department of Defense to develop the FY 2013 budget proposal but have yet to receive this information.
I believe that a field hearing to discuss these issues would be beneficial to Fort Smith, the state of Arkansas and to our national security. Thank you for your consideration and please do not hesitate to contact me if I can provide further information.
Member of Congress