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Latest defense bill saves Selfridge air fleet, more than 700 jobs

by Candice Miller on May 22, 2014

By Chad Halcom

The fleet of A-10 fighters and hundreds of related jobs at Selfridge Air National Guard Base could be spared once more, after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of a 2015 defense bill preserving them from elimination.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 passed 325-98 on the House floor about noon today, restoring the A-10 fleet used by the Air Guard. An initial version of the bill reflected Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s decision in February to retire all 343 active A-10s from service, a move projected by theU.S. Department of Defense to save the government about $3.7 billion over five years.

But the marked-up version of the bill that cleared the House today preserves the A-10 fleet for the next fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1. Another version of the bill is going through markups in the Senate Armed Services Committee and could go for a separate vote this afternoon.

“Today, the president’s attempt to divest the A-10 was defeated yet again by the House, and I am confident that the fleet’s champions in the Senate (will) ensurethe fleet is (also) preserved in the Senate bill,” U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, said in a statement today.

“Our support for the A-10 is based on facts, the cost effective nature of these aircraft, and the strong support of our soldiers who depend on the close air support provided by the A-10.”

Selfridge, in Harrison Township, maintains a fleet of 18 Thunderbolt II A-10 fighters, along with eight KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft. The Thunderbolt II first entered military service in the 1970s and is sometimes called a “tank killer,” conceived in the Cold War to combat a possible ground-based invasion of Western Europe. It saw combat during the initial Persian Gulf War in 1991 against various ground targets.

“We continue to watch this debate with vested interest since it does directly impact the careers of many of our Michigan Airmen, either through potential job loss, relocation or necessary retraining,” Captain Penelope Carroll, chief of public affairs for the 127th Wing at Selfridge, said in a statement Thursday.

“We are eager for a final resolution to questions about the future of this aircraft, especially with the uncertainty of how this impacts our manning and future missions. However, until then we will continue to train in this mission until such time as we are directed to a new mission by the Air Force.”

Congress previously grappled with A-10 funding in 2012 when the Air Force submitted a restructuring proposal that called for eliminating Selfridge’s squadron of A-10 fighter aircraft but adding four KC-135s.

But Congress in a markup to the fiscal 2013 authorization bill added a provision to bar any effort “to divest, retire or transfer or prepare to divest, retire or transfer any aircraft.” The current bill includes a similar provision, officials said, preserving the status quo for A-10s for at least one year.

Air Force officials estimated at the time that eliminating Selfridge’s A-10 fleet would trim about 724 jobs, including 182 full-time active guard, reserve or military technician positions. Officials told Crain’s this week the 2012 jobs figures should still be current.

Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has said he believes Congress should use different measures if it wants to preserve the A-10 fleet.

“I support preserving the A-10. To accomplish that, we must find a realistic way to pay for it. I’m optimistic that when the Senate Armed Services Committee marks up the defense authorization bill this week, we will be able to do so,” he said in a statement.


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