by Jim Nintzel
Congressman Ron Barber offered a successful amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act yesterday to prevent the Defense Department from retiring the A-10 in fiscal year 2015.
Earlier this week, Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon had proposed allowing the A-10 to be parked at the Air Force boneyard so it could be called back into duty if necessary.
Barber's amendment replaced McKeon's plan.
The press release from Barber's office after the jump:
U.S. Rep. Ron Barber’s bipartisan amendment to prevent divestment of the A-10 in FY2015 passed the House Armed Services Committee just before midnight.
During a markup of the National Defense Authorization Act by the House Armed Services Committee, Barber offered an amendment to keep the A-10 flying.
Late Wednesday night, the amendment was passed with support from 25 Democrats on the committee as well as 16 Republicans — despite opposition from Committee Chairman Buck McKeon.
“Today the House Armed Services Committee took an important step to support our ground troops and prevent the A-10 from being divested,” Barber, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said after the vote.
“We will continue this fight in the weeks to come,” Barber added. “We will continue it together as a community in Tucson and I will continue to bring the fight to Washington alongside my colleagues in the House and Senate, Republican and Democrat alike.”
Barber’s amendment was cosponsored by Republican Reps. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri and Austin Scott of Georgia. It will prevent the A-10 from being divested in FY2015 and require that an independent evaluation be conducted of planes the Air Force says can carry out the close air support mission to determine the cost of each platform and its capabilities to protect ground troops.
The amendment also gained the backing of Congresswoman Candice Miller, a Michigan Republican. In a statement earlier Wednesday, Miller said: “Efforts are also underway in the House to preserve the A-10 fleet.
“Today, at a committee markup, a bipartisan group of House Armed Services Committee members, Representatives Hartzler, Scott and Barber, will introduce an amendment to the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act, expected to be on the House Floor later this year, that will preserve the fleet and require an analysis on the capabilities of alternate close air support planes,” Miller added. “I strongly support this amendment and am thankful of the support demonstrated by the committed members of the House and Senate willing to stand up for the fleet.”
In addition, support for Barber’s amendment was sent by members of the Tucson community to Chairman McKeon and Ranking Member Adam Smith.
Ellen Jimenez of the Military Affairs Committee of the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce, Bruce Dusenberry of the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance and Vern Pall, Southern Arizona MOAA member all supported Barber’s amendment.
Each of their letters called for support of Barber’s efforts in committee to save the A-10 from divestment and protect the close air support capability so desperately needed by our ground troops.
“For our Service members who volunteer to face the enemy and put their own lives in harm’s way, the A-10 being but a call away, is sometimes the only sense of comfort they have,” wrote Jimenez.
“We are concerned that the Air Force proposal to divest the A-10 would significantly degrade the USAF capability in close air support (CAS) and other critical missions, such as combat search and rescue (CSAR) and forward air controller-airborne (FAC-A),” Dusenberry wrote on behalf of SADA.
“The A-10 is the most cost-effective, proven aircraft with great agility, lethal armaments, and survivability manned by pilots with a unique close air support expertise,” wrote Pall, a retired Air Force colonel.
Barber consistently has noted that among planes that the Air Force says can protect ground troops, the A-10 is the least expensive plane to operate — and by far the most effective.
Barber’s amendment replaces language by McKeon, the Republican chairman of the committee, which sought to place the A-10s in storage. Barber’s amendment will keep the A-10s flying.
Barber said of McKeon’s plan: “This is not a compromise to keep this aircraft viable. This is purely the divestment by another name of a proven close air support platform that cannot be replaced anytime soon.”
Thursday, Barber will head to the Senate to meet with key members and staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee about supporting the A-10 in the Senate.
Tuesday, Republican Sens. McCain of Arizona, Ayotte of New Hampshire, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia issued a vigorous statement of support for the A-10.
“We know this is not the first time the Air Force has tried to divest the A-10,” the senators said. “The Air Force tried to do so in the late 1980s, but the Department of Defense expressed concern that the Air Force had not ‘adequately emphasized the close air support mission…’ Thank goodness the Air Force’s effort was overturned — hundreds of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are alive today because the Air Force’s previous A-10 divestment efforts were defeated.”
Since he took office nearly two years ago, Barber has been fighting on behalf of the A-10 and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, a major training base for A-10 pilots.
Last month, Barber hosted Gen. Michael Hostage, commander of the Air Combat Command, at D-M, Barber and Hostage met with community leaders as Barber demonstrated to Hostage the overwhelming Southern Arizona support for D-M, its current and future missions and the A-10.
Also last month, Barber joined a group of Republican senators and representatives as well as former A-10 pilots and air controllers to push back against the Air Force proposal to permanently ground the planes because of budget restrictions.
· Hosted a briefing on close air support detailing the A-10’s superior capabilities for his colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee.
· Sharply questioned a top Air Force official about reasoning that went into the proposal to retire the A-10 and whether the Air Force is violating legislation Barber helped push through that prohibits the Air Force from doing anything to retire the A-10 during 2014.
· Has questioned numerous top Pentagon officials about how they plan to protect American ground troops if the A-10 is retired.
In addition to being a key piece of the military’s arsenal, the A-10 is important to the Southern Arizona economy. It is the main plane flown at D-M, which has an economic impact to Southern Arizona of nearly $1 billion annually.
Barber has noted that the A-10 is being targeted for retirement in large part because of sequestration — the irresponsible, across-the-board budget cuts that have hit national defense especially hard. Barber has opposed these cuts since before he was sworn into office in June 2012.