I’ve been honored to learn firsthand how vital the A-10 is to our national security by serving alongside the brave men and women in uniform who protect our country.
The highlight of my Air Force career was flying the Warthog in combat, most recently when I commanded the 354th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base — the same place I learned to fly this beautiful, avenging angel that saves lives.
The Obama administration’s decision to mothball the A-10 risks our national security, Southern Arizona’s economy and D-M’s future. Let’s review the facts of how this unfolded.
As a member of the powerful House Armed Services Committee for the past two years, Rep. Ron Barber should have made the future of the A-10 and D-M his top priority. In the spring of 2013, the Senate inserted legislation in its annual defense bill ordering the Pentagon to study the close-air-support capability gap when the A-10 is replaced by the F-35. But the version in the House, where Barber serves, contains no such language. The bill was being formed in the House Armed Services panel while one Air National Guard and two of the seven active-duty A-10 squadrons were moving to shut down (one being the 358th Fighter Squadron at D-M, which quietly deactivated two weeks ago and will be replaced with a slightly smaller reserve unit). Yet Barber placed no A-10 language in the House bill. He offered no amendments, directed no studies and provided no comments in the “additional concerns” section where any member can freely express his or her position on any defense issue. Nothing. Barber either bypassed or failed to use this prime opportunity to make a difference.
The threat to the A-10 became more immediate last spring. The Pentagon’s public narrative on the Warthog’s demise has been unchanged since June 17, when Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh announced a high potential for elimination in the 2015 budget. I called urgent attention to this threat in an August Star op-ed titled “Wake up and unite to save the A-10 and Davis-Monthan.”
Inexplicably, Barber disagreed with all the warning signs. In response to my opinion piece, the Star’s Tim Steller reported: “Asked Saturday if there are any short-term threats to the A-10 and D-M, U.S. Rep. Ron Barber said flatly, ‘No.’ ”
Into September, Air Force generals continued to publicly validate Welsh’s June statement that the A-10 was likely to be chopped, and national media spotlighted the warnings Barber ignored. He was then forced to flip-flop on his claim of “no” threat, but it was too little, too late.
To top it off, Barber is taking credit for things he simply did not do. He claimed on Feb. 26 in the Star that he “led the charge in the House to pass legislation that will protect the A-10 through the end of this year.” However, Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon’s staff confirmed to me recently that New Hampshire Sen. Kelly
Ayotte and McKeon alone made it happen. The truth is that
Ayotte has been consistently leading the charge to save the A-10 — not Barber.
Leadership is about making things happen, not being a bystander then waking up to write letters that end up in the president’s trash. Most of all, it’s not about claiming responsibility for things you didn’t do.
As a veteran, a Southern Arizonan and a former A-10 commander, I am alarmed at the end result of Barber’s alleged fight. These facts may be a bitter pill for some to swallow. Despite his press releases, speeches, letters and op-eds in the last six months, the facts reveal the threat to the A-10 and D-M drastically increased during Barber’s tenure.
Southern Arizona needs a leader of action, not words to reverse the damage. Unlike Barber, we A-10 pilots get the mission done. The A-10 and D-M must be saved, and I intend to replace Barber to lead the fight.