House legislation passed Thursday to fund the federal government through March 2013 contains a provision that prohibits the Department of Defense from retiring any Air Force aircraft. This provision covers the F-16 fighter jets of the Iowa Air National Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing. Iowa Congressman Tom Latham, a strong advocate for maintaining the 132nd’s full presence in Des Moines, voted in favor of the legislation containing the provision.
“The 132nd Fighter Wing has been an exemplary unit of the U.S. Air Force, and I am pleased that Thursday’s continuing appropriations bill prohibits its elimination,” Congressman Latham said. “I do not believe that the Air Force’s recommendation to close this fighter wing was based on thorough cost-benefit analysis, and I will continue working to ensure that defense spending decisions are based on solid data and strengthening our national security.”
Specifically, the House-passed funding bill, H.J. Res. 117, would not allow the Department of Defense to “retire, divest, realign, or transfer aircraft of the Air Force; [or] disestablish or convert any unit associated with aircraft … of the Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve.”
Congressman Latham originally worked with his colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee to include a section in the Fiscal Year 2013 Defense Appropriations bill to freeze the proposed retirement of all Air Force aircraft until the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office could review a cost-benefit analysis. The House passed this legislation on July 19, and the Senate has yet to vote on it.
The Air Force has proposed a reduction of hundreds of Iowa Air Guard positions due to recent recommendations to retire 21 F-16s in the Des Moines-based 132nd Fighter Wing as part of cost-saving measures. Congressman Latham has spoken out repeatedly against the proposed Iowa Air Guard cuts, and has met with National Guard officials and Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley in an effort to find a better way forward. Testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in April, Congressman Latham criticized the proposal because of the absence of a cost-benefit analysis and the irreversible elimination of the considerable experience amassed by the decorated fighter wing.