Questions for Martha McSally: On what basis do you assert that Davis-Monthan AFB will close?

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Martha McSally told The Arizona Republic that her "top
priority will be keeping the A-10 aircraft, which she flew as the
first female airman in combat, from from being phased out at
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base."

McSally also told the Sierra Vista Herald:

Noting the district includes two important military installations —
the Air Force’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson and the Army’s
Fort Huachuca in Serra Vista — she said both are in danger of being
closed if actions are not taken to strengthen them
with additional missions.

As for the air base, McSally, who served at Davis-Monthan, said the
Air Force is on the verge of making a bad operational decision to
eliminate the A-10, a close air support aircraft, a plane she
flew over Afghanistan.

There is no other aircraft which can provide the close air support ground forces need, McSally said.

Back in January of 2012, the Air Force announced that it would begin phasing out the 40 year old A-10 aircraft — in 2028. This has led to fear mongering by local talk radio, see James T. Harris Flake drops A-10 bomb on constituents – Arizona Daily Independent (Flake confirmed for listeners of the James T. Harris radio show that one of their worst fears was true: the A-10 has been marked for elimination in the next 1 to 2 years), and by Martha McSally that Pentagon budget cuts (i.e., the GOP sequester) could lead to the retirement of the A-10 in the next couple of years, or with the next round of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission in 2015. See this KGUN 9 Tucson report (sourced entirely to Martha McSally).

All this gloom and doom Armageddon talk is entirely speculation at this point. I've lived in Tucson long enough to remember the previous half-dozen times or so that Chicken Littles predicted "the sky is falling" with the imminent closure of Davis-Monthan, and the base is still operational. Davis-Monthan is a fair weather air force base for flight training in unrestricted air space with access to the Goldwater Bombing Range, and its "boneyard" for spare parts is a vital resource. Davis-Monthan has other critical missions assigned to it besides the aging A-10, so it is not closing any time soon.

Just last month, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) blocked USAF secretary nominee over possible A-10 cuts:

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., has placed a hold on the White House’s
nominee for Air Force secretary, blocking the confirmation process of
Deborah Lee James until questions are answered regarding potential cuts
to the A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft, according to an Ayotte aide.

“Yes,
she has placed a hold until she gets answers on the A-10 issue,” the
aide told Air Force Times’ sister publication Defense News late
Wednesday. “She (as ranking member of the readiness subcommittee) views
this as a readiness issue. Until we have a replacement for the A-10, why
would the [Air Force] try to eliminate it? She isn’t necessarily saying
we must retain the A-10, but wants to ensure there isn’t a capability
gap that could result in lost American lives.”

Sen. Ayotte's husband is also a former A-10 pilot, by the way. This Air Force Times article has a good discussion of what is going on with the Pentagon decision to phase out the A-10:

In response, Deborah Lee James insisted that no final decision had been made on the A-10. While that official line has been repeated by Air Force officials, sources have told Defense News that the service is considering cutting the entire A-10 fleet.

Proponents
of cutting the A-10 argue its close-air support mission can be done
with other platforms and point out its mission is less relevant as the
Air Force turns towards the Pacific region
, but the platform is a
political minefield. It remains popular with the Reserve and National
Guard branches of the Air Force, and has supporters in the Army, who
views its mission as critical for the defense of ground troops.

At
last week’s Air Force Association conference in National Harbor, Md.,
top Air Force officials sent clear signals that the A-10 fleet is likely
on the chopping block as the service struggles to deal with steep
budget cuts.
[i.e., the GOP sequester cuts.]

Gen. Mike Hostage, the head of Air Force Air Combat
Command, said while he doesn’t want to lose the A-10, it would be a
logical platform to be done away with
.

“In a perfect world, I would have 1,000 A-10s,” Hostage said
at the conference. “I can’t afford it. I can’t afford the fleet I have
now
. If I cut the fleet in half, do I save enough to get through this
problem?

“My view is, while I don’t want to do it, I would rather lose the entire fleet and save everything I do in the infrastructure.”

The
need to eliminate whole platforms, particularly single-role platforms,
was echoed by both Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and Acting Air Force
Secretary Eric Fanning.

“Everything is on the table,” Fanning said
during the conference. “We’re trying to protect a few of the main
programs, but we are looking most closely at single-mission fleets.”

Also last month, in a National Defense article Fight to Keep A-10 Warthog in Air Force Inventory Reaches End Game:

The Air Force attempted to reduce the A-10’s numbers in its 2013 budget
request by disbanding five active duty, Guard and reserve units. That
would have cut the inventory by 103 aircraft — almost 30 percent — and
left the Air Force with 246 Warthogs.

That plan was put on hold
after it received some pushback from the states that host some of these
wings and their congressional delegations
. Congress created a National
Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, which is currently looking
at that proposal and others.

 The A-10 “has obviously done a
tremendous job in Iraq and Afghanistan and lots of other places, but the
Air Force has been looking to retire them for quite some time. Retiring
the A-10 is not a new idea
,” said Rebecca Grant, director of the
Washington Security Forum.

“Fighters today really have to be multi-role and cover a lot more area, and have a wider mission set,” she said.

* * *

The Air Force wants to replace both the A-10 and the F-16 with the new
F-35. Armed, remotely piloted aircraft such as the Reaper are another
option for destroying vehicles on the battlefield and providing
close-air support.

“I think we all appreciate the ruggedness of the A-10 and its ability to
take ground fire,” said Grant. “It is great at what it was built for —
to be an airborne cannon — but the fighters today and going forward need
to have that multi-role ability and all the modern sensors that really
can’t be retrofitted onto the A-10,” she said.

The A-10 community has been vocal in defending the aircraft, though.

* * *

Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan was at risk of losing its
Warthogs in the 2013 budget proposal, but was spared when Congress
decided to set up the commission. . . . Davis said the squadron’s loss would have cost Michigan 400 to 500
workers, and that’s in a state that already ranks 48th for federally
funded jobs. . . . If sequestration continues, he expects the Michigan Air Guard’s A-10s to be at risk of being terminated again.

* * *

Grant said the National Guard understandably wants to preserve its
flying missions. Much of that will depend on the outcome of the
commission and the realities of a post-sequester budget
, she added.

“I think the Air National Guard should and will keep a robust flying
mission, but that may not mean keeping every aircraft. The last thing
you want to see is the Guard trying to preserve a very few airframes
that are not operated by the active [forces] anymore
,” she said.

It would lose its ability to mix and match with the active duty wings, she explained.“

"If you stick the Guard with a bunch of aged, expensive, out-of-date A-10s you are doing it no favors,” she added.

Meanwhile, plans call for the Air Force to keep the A-10 C-model in its inventory until 2028, and some upgrades continue. [See A Higher-Tech Hog: USAF A-10C Upgrades and Refurbishments (Defense Industry Daily, subscription required for full article).]

Pilots began receiving a helmet-mounted integrated targeting system last
year. It allows them to look directly at a target day or night, view
targeting pod information, and obtain coordinates while maintaining
situational awareness of flight parameters and battle-space participants
in color, according to Air Combat Command. 

“This is a
game-changing capability to the A-10C’s ability to provide close-air
support to ground forces,” the ACC statement said.

Grant said a handful of A-10s may survive the budget battles and still be flying in 2028.

The current threat to Davis-Monthan AFB is the GOP sequester, which Tea-Publicans insist on retaining in both the Continuing Resolution fight that has shut down the federal government, and in future budget negotiations. The Tea-Publicans are not even seriously considering getting rid of the GOP sequester at this point, because they consider it their one "victory" over federal spending. Democrats in Congress and the White House want to negotiate a budget deal that replaces the ham-handed GOP sequester budget cuts. So why don't you address that issue, Ms. McSally, instead of engaging in fear mongering over BRAC base closures that won't happen any time soon.

—–

Here is a video of Michael Grassinger from the DM50 support organization for Davis-Monthan AFB, and Scott Hines, a Davis-Monthan AFB liaison speaking to the Pima County Republican Club about the A-10 and F-35, and the BRAC commission.

Grassinger asserts a local Tucson group, Tucson Forward: Defending our community from the F-35, is threatening the future of Davis-Monthan AFB. Scott Hines references Sen. Jeff Flake's comments on the James T. Harris radio show and says it is "true," but then says that could change. Hines says he does not think Davis-Monthan wil ever close, it may realign under BRAC. (Warning: crazy talk from the wingnuts in the audience during the Q&A at the end of the video).

I have never even heard of this Tucson Forward until now. I have lived in the D-M flight path most of my life in Tucson. That's the sound of freedom, baby!

Comments are closed.