Washington, D.C. — Iowa Congressman Tom Latham today blasted U.S. House and Senate Defense reauthorization negotiators for dropping a provision that would have temporarily blocked the White House’s planned retirement of the Iowa Air National Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing F-16s. The provision, which was passed earlier in the year by both the House and Senate chambers, was reportedly dropped by negotiators who have been crafting a final version of the legislation which authorizes all defense spending for the new fiscal year.
“The negotiators have defied the will of House and Senate members who voted for the need to review the full national security implications and proper cost-benefit analysis of this agreement. I oppose this plan that in essence complies with the White House’s proposal to retire the F-16s of the 132nd Fighter Wing, and I will vote against this legislation when it is considered by the House.”
Congressman Latham originally worked with his colleagues in the House to include language in appropriations and reauthorization bills to freeze the proposed retirement of all Air Force aircraft until the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office could review a cost-benefit analysis. The U.S. Senate approved the same language in their versions of the bills. The language was supported by Latham to block an Air Force plan to retire the Des Moines-based F-16s.
“The 132nd Fighter Wing has been an exemplary unit of the U.S. Air Force,” 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.”
Latham pledged to continue the fight to protect the 132nd’s current mission and block the White House plan to retire the F-16 mission through every tool available to him. This includes introducing standalone legislation in the coming days that mirrors the language previously approved by the House and Senate.
The White House has proposed an Air Force-recommended 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.
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