Congressman steps up his years-long fight to keep crucial troop-protection aircraft in the air
U.S. Rep. Ron Barber today sharply challenged the Air Force’s proposal to retire the A-10, telling top Pentagon leaders that taking the plane out of service would be “a grave mistake.”
Barber, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, today questioned Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel about their proposal that calls for retiring the A-10 to meet budget requirements.
In a question to Dempsey, Barber asked: “From an Army officer’s perspective who has commanded ground troops, how is it possible that it is not in our nation’s best interest to keep this proven workhorse up and flying?
“I believe we are making a grave mistake in divesting ourselves of the A-10 when it has performed so magnificently and there is no other airframe that can do the job it has done,” Barber added.
Video of Barber’s questioning can be seen below:
Barber, a longtime defender of the A-10, told the top military leaders that “the A-10 plays a crucial role in protecting our service members on the ground – a role that simply cannot be suitably replicated in all aspects by any other aircraft in our inventory at this time.
“I am a supporter of the F-35,” Barber added. “I am a supporter of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), I believe that other airframes can perform aspects of close air support, but none can take the place and perform like the A-10.”
Because of its unique capabilities, Barber has been fighting to keep the A-10 flying since he was district director for then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. He stepped up those efforts as soon as he took office in mid-2012, helping to form the Southern Arizona Defense Alliance which is working to strengthen all military assets and missions in Southern Arizona.
Barber led the fight to include language in comprehensive defense legislation signed in December that prohibits the Pentagon from taking any action during 2014 to retire the A-10.
In addition to being a key piece of the military’s arsenal, the A-10 is important to the Southern Arizona economy. The 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base flies 82 of the planes and trains the next generation of A-10 pilots.
In an op-ed published last week in the Arizona Daily Star, Barber noted: “In Iraq and Afghanistan, there are numerous accounts of how the A-10 — able to fly low and slow and survive multiple hits — protected troops on the ground.”
Barber today reminded the Pentagon leaders that taxpayers recently have made substantial financial investments to improve the A-10’s capabilities and keep in flying for years into the future.
New electronics have been installed on A-10s and over the past few years, 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.
Barber told Dempsey and Hagel that he understands that the A-10 is being targeted only for budget reasons driven by the irresponsible, across-the-board sequestration-mandated cuts.
“There’s no question that we have to reduce our debt and deficit but I share the view of many on this committee and in Congress that sequestration is absolutely the wrong way to do it,” Barber told the Pentagon leaders. “I believe it is seriously compromising our national security.”