At a hearing today of the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, on the fiscal year 2013 budget for the National Guard and Reserve, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) asked Lt. General Harry Wyatt, director of the Air National Guard, about the impact of the House Defense Authorization Bill's one-year delay on the Air Force restructuring plan, which includes a new unmanned aerial guard mission in Nashville and replacing the C-5As in Memphis with C-17s.
Alexander said: "I want to ask about the announcement in February about replacing the C-5As with C-17s, which was part of a comprehensive reorganization of Air Force resources. The House Defense Authorization bill includes a provision that would put that restructuring plan on hold for a year. I want to understand from you, General Wyatt, what the consequences of that would be.
"The idea as you went through these difficult budget decisions was to replace the C-5As, which are expensive to maintain and which are not mission-ready much of the time, with C-17s, which would save a lot of money and produce a more efficient operation. Now, what does this one-year delay do? What does it do in terms of the cost of maintenance, for example, for these C-5As that you know you're going to get rid of? What does it do to the schedule for retraining personnel? What does it do to the Guard's mission readiness?
"You're going to have to spend money maintaining planes that you know you're going to have to get rid of, when you could be spending it retraining Guard personnel and you could be spending it on mission readiness."
Alexander also asked: "In Nashville, the Guard's preparing for a new unmanned aerial vehicle mission, which I understand the Air Force needs for the facility to assume. How will the one-year delay affect our military capabilities and the timeline for moving UAVs into Nashville?"
General Wyatt replied: "Those are great questions that we're wrestling with right now .That particular movement [to move C-17s to Memphis] is one that I think is in the best interests of the country and certainly the Air Force and Air National Guard that we continue with that part of it."
General Wyatt said the delay to plans in Nashville would have "a ripple effect," as the Nashville UAV mission would coincide with a transfer of Nashville's existing C-130s to Puerto Rico.
Wyatt added, "Delays do make the transition a little bit more difficult and costly."
Alexander told Gen. Wyatt: "I hope as we move through the process that we would be respectful of your stewardship of scarce dollars, and that we would see what that delay would do is really waste money, or take money that could be used in other places to maintain planes that we know we're going to get rid of."