Air Force wants to remove A-10 from Selfridge despite opposition
The Air Force on Tuesday said they wanted to remove five backup A-10s from Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, raising new concerns about the long-range future of the planes at the base.
Other changes for Selfridge, including their original plan to move all the A-10s from Selfridge, are on hold pending Congressional approval of the 2013 defense budget. Michigan’s legislators were quick to reaffirm their support for the planes at Selfridge.
“I strongly reject any effort to eliminate the 107th Fighter Squadron at Selfridge and I’m confident that the Senate would reject any such attempt when it takes up the National Defense Authorization Act,” said Sen. Carl Levin, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Air Force announced plans last winter to phase out the A-10s as part of $8.7 billion in proposed cuts over five years.
The cuts brought out massive opposition, from the governor, the heads of Macomb, Wayne and Oakland counties and Detroit’s mayor, and a grass roots effort led by the Selfridge Base Community Council.
Most of the arguments were based on the Guard’s cost effectiveness, supplying 35% of the Air Force’s missions for 6% of the budget, and their assistance to states during emergencies.
“Throughout this process, the Air Force has failed to make the case for cuts to the Air National Guard on a readiness basis, a cost saving basis or any basis,” Miller said.
Congress finally stepped in, rejecting the cuts to Selfridge and other guard and reserve units in strong statements by both the House and Senate in May, which appeared to put an end to the matter.
Local objections can have an effect, especially in a presidential election year, said Mackenzie Eaglen, a research fellow who studies defense issues for the Washington DC based American Enterprise Institute. Montana, for example, sued the Department of Defense over removing F-16 fighter jets from that state.
The Defense Department compromised by agreeing to not move out the F-16s until a group of cargo planes could be moved in.
But in the long run, the Selfridge cuts are fighting two battles. One is the Air Force’s need to downsize. Even if the A-10s are replaced, the replacements will probably not make up for the jobs lost with the A-10s, Eaglen said.
The Air Force’s original plan was to move out 24 A-10s from Selfridge and bring four KC-135 air refueling tankers. But the tankers would mean a net job loss, since they would only bring 70 jobs.
The second battle is even bigger. The Air Force plans change in its mission from the Middle East and fighting insurgencies, to a new focus on Asia.
That is a more long-range strategy, Eaglen said, involving bombers, air refueling planes and the F-16s. The A-10s, which support ground troops, are more geared towards fighting insurgencies than the new mission, Eaglen said.
Source: By Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki - 10 July 2012
Photo: An A-10 Thunderbolt II is prepped for another flight at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich. (wg.ang.af.mil)
Photo Story: Crew chiefs and other maintenance personnel from the 127th Maintenance Group prepare an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft for a training mission at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., June 8, 2011. The Michigan Air National Guard flies A-10s, which performs the close air support mission, and the KC-135 Stratotanker, a global aerial refueler, at Selfridge. (U.S. Air Force photo by John S. Swanson)