by Jim Nintzel
Congressman Ron Barber has begun assembling a coalition to protect the A-10 Thunderbolt II, the Air Force attack jet. Barber blames sequestration for the threat to the jet, which is key to the mission of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
Barber's press release:
The A-10 is the main aircraft stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, where the 355th Fighter Wing flies 82 of the planes. But because of across-the-board indiscriminate spending cuts known as sequestration, which Barber has adamantly opposed, the Air Force is considering retiring the aircraft.
The A-10 is nicknamed the “Warthog” and has been highly praised by ground troops. “One Army commander told me, whenever he heard the Warthogs show up, he knew that their day was about to get better,” Barber said in his remarks in the House.
Barber also supported the A-10 this week in a letter to Eric Fanning, secretary of the Air Force, and Gen. Mark Welsh III, Air Force chief of staff. The letter was signed by eight of Barber’s colleagues, both Republicans and Democrats.
“The A-10 Thunderbolt, as you know very well, is unsurpassed in its ability to provide close-air combat support for service members on the ground,” Barber wrote.
“In Operation Desert Storm, the A-10 was responsible for the destruction of 4,000 military vehicles and artillery pieces,” Barber added. “In Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, the A-10 has performed nearly one third of the combat sorties. In addition to close air support, the A-10 has also assisted in combat search and rescue operations, escorting helicopters and assets in and out of combat zones.”
New electronics have been installed on A-10s and just last year, the Air Force began installing new wings on all the planes. The rewinging has been completed on all A-10s based at D-M. The new wings and electronics were touted as cost-effective ways to extend the life of the planes until at least 2028.
But with the Pentagon facing billions of dollars in cuts because of the across-the-board and indiscriminate sequestration cuts, the Air Force is considering getting rid of all A-10s in a money-saving move.
“Sequestration is a disgrace,” Barber said in his House remarks. “I never supported it, and I implore my colleagues to work with me to end it. Our national security and the protection of our service members in combat areas must be paramount as we fund the Department of Defense.”
Barber has repeatedly called on his colleagues in Congress to take immediate bipartisan action to reverse sequestration cuts and instead do the hard work of going through the federal budget to identify and cut programs that are ineffective, wasteful or unnecessary.
This week’s House speech and letter are the latest moves Barber has taken to ensure the long-term viability of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, the 162nd Fighter Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard, Fort Huachuca and Southern Arizona’s military assets.
Before taking office, Barber handled military affairs for Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and worked with civilian support groups throughout Southern Arizona to protect Arizona’s installations and defense industry.
Since he took office in June 2012, Barber has worked closely with members of the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance, the D-M 50, the 162nd Fighter Wing Minutemen Committee and the Fort Huachuca 50 to help preserve and strengthen the military’s role in Tucson and Sierra Vista.
In September 2012, Barber wrote to the secretary of the Air Force advocating for basing the F-35 in Southern Arizona, given its proximity to test ranges and near-perfect flying weather.
Early in 2013, Barber prevented sequestration cuts that would have ended funding for Operation Angel Thunder, the world's largest personnel rescue and recovery exercise, based at Davis-Monthan. Over the course of the last year, Barber and his staff have met with Air Force officials multiple times regarding the missions at Davis Monthan and the 162nd Fighter Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard.
Barber hosted SADA members in Washington with Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona earlier this year to meet with officials at the Pentagon and deliver the message of Southern Arizona’s widespread support for our men and women in uniform and the military missions in Tucson and Sierra Vista.
Barber is a member of the House Armed Services Committee where he advocated for Southern Arizona’s military installations in helping to write the legislation of the National Defense Authorization Act. Barber voted for both the Defense Authorization and Appropriation bills which included full funding for the A-10 through fiscal 2014. Both bills passed the House this summer.
Last month, Barber hosted Undersecretary of the Army Dr. Joseph W. Westphal for a two-day tour of Southern Arizona defense contractors and Fort Huachuca. Barber also facilitated meetings between Westfall and SADA members.