Members of Iowa’s Congressional delegation are challenging a Pentagon plan to decommission a large Iowa Air National Guard unit. The proposal to shut down the Des Moines-based 132nd Fighter Wing would cost 1,000 central Iowa jobs.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley is holding meetings this week in hopes of saving the unit. “If it is a done deal, and I don’t know that it’s a done deal, it might be more difficult than if it’s still in consideration,” Grassley says. “I hope it’s the latter. Obviously, I think we have a chance to weigh in to a greater extent than if somebody says, ‘This is the way it’s going to be and just forget it.’ I don’t know why they’d come to talk to us if it was a done deal.”
Grassley will meet this afternoon in Washington (at 3:30 P.M. Central time) with Iowa National Guard Major General Timothy Orr. Grassley says, “On Thursday afternoon, I’m also going to follow up with a meeting I put together with the Iowa Congressional delegation with the Secretary of the Air Force (Michael) Donley on the same subject.”
The budget-cutting plan calls for the retiring of the Iowa Guard’s 21 F-16 fighter jets and the decommissioning of the unit, which has nearly a thousand members, including pilots, mechanics and support staff. “My concern about the Air Force strategy of targeting the Guard for cuts is that the Guard is more cost-effective for missions, such as a fighter squadrons, than active duty,” Grassley says. “And Guard pilots tend to be more experienced since they stay in the service for a longer period of time.”
One report says the Air Force is considering replacing the piloted F-16 fighter jets with a squadron of unmanned drone aircraft, which could create as many as 500 positions. It’s unclear how many staff from the current unit, if any, would be able to transfer.