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Plan to remove planes from Selfridge raises new worries

by Candice Miller on July 11, 2012

By Peggy Walsh-Sarnecki

Detroit Free Press

The Air Force said Tuesday that it wants to remove five backup A10s from Selfridge Air National Guard Base, raising new concerns about the future of the fighter planes at the Macomb County base.

Other changes for Selfridge, including the Air Force’s original plan to move all the A10s from the base, are on hold, pending congressional approval of the 2013 defense budget.

Michigan’s two senators and U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, a Republican from Harrison Township whose district includes Selfridge, were quick to reaffirm their support for keeping 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 U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat from Detroit who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Local objections can have an effect on military cutbacks, especially in a presidential election year, said Mackenzie Eaglen, a research fellow who studies defense issues for the Washington, D.C.-based American Enterprise Institute.

Montana, for example, sued the Department of Defense over the removal of F16 fighter jets from the state. The department compromised by agreeing not to move out the F16s until a group of cargo planes could be moved in, Eaglen said.

But in the long run, Selfridge proponents are fighting two battles. One is the Air Force’s need to downsize. Even if the A10s are replaced, the replacements will probably not make up for the jobs lost with them, Eaglen said.

The Air Force’s original plan was to move all A10s from Selfridge, eliminating about 540 jobs, and bring in four KC135 air refueling tankers. The tankers would bring 70 jobs.

The second battle is bigger. The Air Force plans to change its focus from fighting insurgencies in the Middle East to Asia. That is a more long-range strategy, Eaglen said, involving bombers, air refueling planes and the F16s. The A10s, which support ground troops, are more geared toward fighting insurgencies, Eaglen said.

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