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Editorial - Turnabout: I'm holding Air Force to its word

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Turnabout: I'm holding Air Force to its word

Once again Jim Fisher fails to get facts straight and tell the real story. Worse, this time he seems to be relying on information from a story printed in the New York Times, a paper facing national scrutiny for its credibility.

A recent editorial in the Tribune [June 11] begins with inaccurate information about my "secret hold" on Air Force promotions. On the Senate floor, prior to placing these holds, I informed the majority leader, chairman of Armed Services, chairman of Appropriations and several of my colleagues of my intentions. In fact, I told them this was not and would not be an anonymous hold. Was I disappointed the Air Force leaked my discussions with them to the press? You bet, because they used this tactic to try and pressure me into allowing them to renege on their commitment to the U.S. taxpayer—not because they revealed who had the "hold" as the New York Times reported.

In a meeting Tuesday with the secretary of the Air Force and White House representatives, the secretary himself acknowledged that in 1996 the Air Force made a commitment and declared Idaho's four Air National Guard C-130 aircraft were the "first installment, with more to follow." I am trying to hold the Air Force accountable for its promises and have them meet their own requirements: a full-size squadron is eight aircraft.

I am troubled the Air Force is ready to walk away from a $40 million investment of taxpayer money in defense construction over six years at Gowen Field for the establishment of a full squadron. This should be disturbing not only to taxpayers in Idaho, but across the nation.

There were a couple other items Jim mentions that made me chuckle. He states I am circumventing the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) through my current actions. He also states that BRAC was created to prevent members of Congress from protecting their home bases. What he didn't talk about was the vote I cast last week against an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill that would have eliminated the 2005 BRAC process.

So, according to the Tribune's logic, that vote eliminated any chance to "protect Idaho's military bases." The vote also appears to eliminate the Tribune's argument that I was trying to circumvent BRAC.

In the same meeting with the secretary, the Air Force pointed out that Idaho is one of the last states in the nation where military training ranges are expanding, not decreasing in size. That is a promising and progressive foundation for our nation's defense, and one that should remain attractive to the military.

I am confident that Idaho's bases are necessary and will be able to survive BRAC. My actions have been to use what tools are available to me to ensure the military meets its own requirements and honors its own commitments.

The bottom line is that I have a responsibility to protect Idaho's interests. The 341 men and women of Idaho's Air National Guard performed marvelously during Iraqi Freedom, and they need the necessary equipment required by the Air Force to perform their duties.

Idaho's National Guard is a critical component, not only of our military and nation's defense, but of Idaho's economy as well. Without ensuring the longevity of Idaho's military mission, Idaho would lose out on millions of dollars to our economy and one option for Idahoans to serve in our Armed Forces. That would be a great loss to our state, and an option I am not willing to accept without a fight.

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