September 2, 2014

Latham makes pitch to keep F-16′s in Des Moines (audio)

Representative Tom Latham testifying in Washington.

Iowa Congressman Tom Latham testified before the House Armed Services Committee today,voicing his opposition to a budget cutting proposal that would shut down an F-16 fighter wing in Iowa.

“I’m greatly concerned that just one F-16 unit out of the entire Air Force — the Air National Guard 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines — was singled out for elimination under the plan with no justification given,” Latham said.

The Republican from Ames said when he asked senior Air Force leaders why the Iowa unit was chosen for elimination, he was only told it was a “judgment call.”

The cuts to the 132nd would involve 378 soldiers losing their jobs. “Obviously I’m concerned about the economic impact in Iowa and the future of those airmen, but I’m also most concerned that it appears the decision was made using nonstrategic criteria and the greater cost effectiveness of relying on Air Guard units was completely ignored,” Latham said.

The Air Force plan would retire 21 F-16s operated by the 132nd Fighter Wing at a facility adjacent to the Des Moines Airport. Latham said the proposal fails to make the most of taxpayer dollars.

Air Guard F-16s bring greater experience and lower operating costs, for both personnel and infrastructure,” Latham said.

“The Air Force ignores the cost-effectiveness of the Guard as a way to achieve additional cost savings. They have relied on what many believe is a flawed costing model, which compares deployed members only and concludes that reservists cost more than active duty members.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, a Republican from California, said the issues raised by Latham warrant consideration by the committee. “We will definitely look at this as we go through the process. It’s going to be tough working all of these things out, but I think that people need to really understand how serious this is,” McKeon said.

The budget issue will be decided by Congress, possibly later this summer or fall.

Audio Latham’s comments and the response from Chairman McKeon  6:36.