Harrison TownshipJuly 13, 2012
Lawmakers fighting to keep A-10s at Selfridge
By Julie Snyder
C & G Staff Writer
HARRISON TOWNSHIP — Despite state-level efforts earlier this year to keep the 107th Fighter Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, the U.S. Air Force made an announcement on July 10 that deviates from what local lawmakers asked.
An Air Force official informed lawmakers that top brass will seek a budget exception that will allow five back-up aircraft to be transferred from Selfridge to other military bases, which the politicians say deviates from a deal forged on Capitol Hill to keep the jets in Michigan.
The announcement is raising concerns among local lawmakers who wonder about the future of the base and the jobs it provides.
State Rep. Anthony Forlini, R-Harrison Township, called on the Pentagon to obey the will of Congress and keep three A-10 Thunderbolt II units at Selfridge.
“The Pentagon is going against the will of Congress after we worked very hard with federal officials to keep the squadron at Selfridge,” Forlini said in a statement. “Not only are these aircraft vital to our local economy, as they account for more than 500 military and civilian jobs in Harrison Township, but they are also cost-effective. The National Guard flies more than a third of U.S. air missions at a cost of just 6 percent of budgeted funds, compared to active duty crews.”
Forlini also noted that the Pentagon has, as recently as seven years ago, deemed the squadron vital to the nation’s overall homeland security program.
“When the U.S. House approved the defense budget this year, it included provisions that strongly recommended against cutting National Guard units,” he said. “The U.S. Senate’s version of the bill blocks the transfer or retirement of Air National Guard aircraft. The Pentagon is defying the will of members of Congress and the people they represent by attempting to move the Michigan units.”
The Air Force announced plans last winter to phase out the A-10s as part of $8.7 billion in proposed cuts over the next five years.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he received a letter from the Air Force asking for an exception to current policy, which prohibits any transfers or retirements of any aircraft pending action on the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013.
Air Force officials informed Levin’s staff that the “exception” they seek is not to eliminate the 107th Fighter Squadron at Selfridge, but to go forward with a move publicly announced in 2010 to transfer six A-10s from Selfridge to other locations as part of downsizing efforts. Levin said in a statement that he will consult Air National Guard officials as to whether they continue to support the 2010 move. The largest part of the argument was based on the ANG’s cost effectiveness, supplying 35 percent of the Air Force’s missions for 6 percent of the budget, and their assistance to states during emergencies.
“I strongly reject any effort to eliminate the 107th Fighter Squadron at Selfridge, and I’m confident that the Senate will reject any such attempt when it takes up the National Defense Authorization Act,” he said.
U.S. Representative Candice Miller, R-Shelby Township, also weighed in on the issue after receiving a clarification letter on July 10 from U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Tod D. Wolters explaining that the transfers are separate from the fiscal year 2013 Presidential Budget, which proposes removal of 21 A-10 aircraft from Selfridge.
In his letter, Wolters states: “My (July 9) letter attempted to clarify the scheduled transfer of five Backup Aircraft Inventory A-10s to four other ANG bases. These FY10 budget transfers were scheduled to occur in FY13. As I mentioned in the (July 9) letter, per the direction of the Secretary of Defense, the U.S. Air Force will suspend aircraft transfers and retirements previously scheduled for implementation in FY12 until Congress completes action on the FY13 defense authorization and defense appropriations bills. This includes the initiation of actions for transfer of the BAI aircraft from Selfridge.”
“In the letter I received yesterday and the clarification I received today from the Air Force, they acknowledge that current policy is that no aircraft are to be moved without Congressional approval,” Miller said on July 10.
“We will continue to work with and consult the Michigan National Guard on any efforts to change the force structure of the 107th and will take whatever action is in the best interest of the Michigan Air Guard and our national defense.”
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