WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., called Thursday for the Senate to block the Air Force from shifting mission assignments within the Air National Guard during this fiscal year.
Boozman wants the Senate to include such a prohibition in a defense authorization bill that could come up for a vote in the next month. The measure, he said, would make certain that the Arkansas National Guard’s 188th Fighter Wing based in Fort Smith would retain its A-10 jet mission.
“They shouldn’t do anything now,” he said. “I would like them to form a group that studies this issue and comes back with recommendations on what is correct to do. Without the facts, how are we supposed to know what is best for Arkansas and for the country?”
Boozman and Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., met Thursday with the Air Force’s liaison officer to the U.S. Senate to discuss the latest proposal to abandon the A-10 mission in Fort Smith. The Air Force is considering a plan that would retain more A-10s within the Air Guard, allowing for bases in Michigan and Indiana to keep the mission. Fort Smith, however, would still be on the chopping block.
No formal proposal has been made and Boozman characterized the new proposal as something of a trial balloon to see what might fly in Congress.
Congress flatly rejected an earlier Air Force proposal that would have slashed $487 billion in spending over the next decade because the cuts fell heavily on the Air National Guard.
In fact, Congress has blocked the Air Force from shifting any Air Guard missions under a temporary budget resolution that extends until March. However, the Air Force is hoping that by revising the plan the Senate would consider rescinding the freeze in the pending defense authorization bill.
Boozman and Pryor have asked the Air Force to provide them with any studies or other material that led them to target the 188th Wing. Neither Arkansas expect the Air Force can justify the decision since the 188th, they say, has consistently ranked as the most cost effective.