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 I sent in May to Representative Randy Forbes, Chairman, and Representative Madeleine Bordallo, Ranking Member, of the Readiness Subcommittee, I questioned 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 called for a field hearing in Fort Smith to discuss these issues.
Last week, Congressman Randy Forbes, Chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee joined me, members of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation and Governor Mike Beebe in hosting the 188th Oversight Tour and Defending Our Defenders Listening Session in Fort Smith.
As you all know, the 188th Fighter Wing is of critical importance to the Fort Smith region, the State of Arkansas and our nation. The elimination of the A-10 flying mission from the Arkansas Air National Guard could have a severe economic impact on the Fort Smith region and the State of Arkansas. Loss of this mission could result in hundreds of area jobs lost, and an annual economic impact to the community of approximately $150 million.
Removing fighter aircraft from Fort Smith is not fiscally sound and will significantly affect joint training. While I understand that the proposed force structure changes are the result of a limited budgetary environment, I am concerned the Air Force may have made its decision based on factors beyond cost analysis and performance basis. These two factors demonstrate the 188th is one of the best in the nation.
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.
The entire Arkansas congressional delegation and Governor Beebe have been working together to demonstrate the effectiveness of the 188th Fighter Wing and its importance to Arkansas. You can be assured that we will continue to work with congressional and military leaders in an effort to keep the 188th in Fort Smith.