As fellow Southern Arizonans who have been elected to public service, we agree on what makes our community thrive. One element is the vibrant contribution made by the many veterans and military families who live here.
As the two Pima County supervisors who represent Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and the surrounding area, we understand the importance of the base to the military men and women stationed there, veterans and to the entire region.
The Pima County Board of Supervisors has adopted several resolutions supporting the base and its missions – both at present and in the future. As a community, Pima County voters approved $10 million in bonds to purchase open space and protect the base’s approach and departure corridors.
Davis-Monthan is a significant asset to Southern Arizona and our national defense, and one of the missions based at D-M is the A-10 Thunderbolt II. The A-10 is unrivaled in its capability to provide close air support and protect our troops on the ground in combat zones with its ability to fly low and slow and loiter for extended periods of time. It is also valuable to our regional economy, since many A-10 pilots are trained in Tucson.
The administration, the Pentagon and the Air Force want to retire the A-10 for budgetary reasons. However, we believe this is not in our nation’s best interest.
Arizona Sen. John McCain has said the A-10 is “the finest close air support weapon system in the world.” We doubt any of our returning veterans who served as combat ground troops disagree. On many occasions, it has been the A-10’s ability to visibly loiter in the air above our troops for extended periods of time that has kept the enemy at bay and saved American lives.
Some have argued that the A-10’s job can be done by the F-35 joint strike fighter. The F-35 is an astonishing airplane, and we would certainly welcome it at D-M. In fact, the board recently adopted a resolution favoring multiple missions to help achieve D-M’s defense objectives. However, the F-35’s presence should not dilute the value of the A-10 and its specialized ability to serve and protect our combat ground troops.
We commend U.S. Rep. Ron Barber for leading the effort to protect the A-10 in Congress. He has challenged the president, the Pentagon and the leadership of the House Armed Services Committee in an effort to protect the A-10 and has gained the support of rank-and-file Republicans and Democrats to pass an amendment to fund the A-10 for another year. The amendment passed on a margin of 2 to 1.
Recently, the White House threatened to veto this year’s defense bill if it contains certain provisions, including the A-10 funding, and last week, the House Appropriations defense subcommittee failed to include funding for the A-10 in spite of the previous support of the full House. Congressman Barber’s next task will be to continue working with Republicans and Democrats to protect the A-10 mission — either in the House Appropriations Committee or again in the full House.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican whose husband was an A-10 pilot, is working with Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee. She has said the committee leadership “is committed to preserving the A-10.” Recently, the committee took an important step to protect the plane, similar to the House’s action two weeks earlier.
These senators are listening. They have heard the stories of U.S. Special Forces teams escaping attacks in Afghanistan because the heavily armored A-10 was on scene to provide the air cover they needed.
We know the A-10 is the best option for protecting U.S. troops in the combat theater, and so does the Air Force. We call on our entire congressional delegation to support extending the life of the A-10 and to support Davis-Monthan. We believe this must be a bipartisan effort supported by everyone.