Updated with comment from Gov. Mike Beebe.
Members of Arkansas’ Congressional delegation on Wednesday said they are “extremely disheartened” about that a compromise on cuts in the U.S. defense budget do not include a plan to retain the A-10 mission for the 188th Fighter Wing.
The compromise would retain A-10 units in Michigan and Indiana, but not with the Fort Smith-based 188th. Arkansas’ delegation, to include U.S. Rep.-elect Tom Cotton, R-Dardanelle, said the Air Force decision to reduce A-10 units was not based “on a detailed analysis of cost-efficiency.”
Broad cuts in U.S. defense spending include the removal of the 20 A-10 Thunderbolt fighter planes from the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith. The unit has almost 1,000 full- and part-time employees. The loss of the fighter mission is scheduled to be replaced with the unmanned Predator drone. The drones and intelligence specialists needed to analyze drone-driven data would not be based in Fort Smith.
Following is the joint statement from members of Arkansas’ Congressional Delegation – Womack, Boozman, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford, Tim Griffin, and Mike Ross
“Late last night, the National Defense Authorization Act’s (H.R. 4310) final conference report was released. Unfortunately, we now know that language which would have prevented the United States Air Force (USAF) from ending the 188th Fighter Wing’s A-10 mission is not included in the final bill.
“Together as a delegation, we have fought this uphill battle, knowing the odds were stacked against us. We are extremely disheartened by the USAF’s decision which was based on the capstone principle of maintaining one flying mission per state rather than on a detailed analysis of cost-efficiency.
“But this is not the end of the road, and no final decisions have been made. We will continue to fight to ensure that the 188th – which has a remarkable history and record and excels by every metric possible – has a vital mission in the USAF as it is modernized.”
Gov. Mike Beebe’s office issued this statement: "This is the most efficient A-10 unit in the country with its proximity to its training grounds. It is bad decision to do away with them, both from the defense department standpoint and the tax payer standpoint as well. This is the least costly A-10 unit in the country. If you’re going to have A-10 units anywhere, this is the one that saves the tax payers the most money."
News of the conference report compromise was released Tuesday. Link here for The City Wire story on the report.