FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Buck McKeon’s A-10 Sell-Out

Supporters of the A-10 “Warthog” close air support aircraft in Washington and US combat Soldiers and Marines who have seen, and are seeing, combat in Afghanistan were stunned Monday to read about a decision of the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Buck McKeon (R-CA).  He is joining with the Air Force and wants to retire all of these extraordinarily effective combat aircraft, sending them all to the boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force base, starting as soon as next year.

Ever since Chief of Staff of the Air Force (CSAF) Mark Welsh decided to get rid of all of 300-plus A-10s in the active and reserve Air Force and the Air National Guard, the media and congressional hearings have been stuffed with information from combat veterans, pilots and defense specialists about how spectacularly the A-10 has been performing in Afghanistan and all other recent US wars in Libya, Iraq and Kosovo–going as far back as Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

McKeon’s A-10 sell-out comes in the form of a ruse.  His draft legislation, to be moved Wednesday (May 7) at the mark-up of the House Armed Services Committee of its FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), creates a distinction without a difference with CSAF Welsh’s retirement plan.  McKeon’s own description of his handiwork says he “would limit funds to retire A-10 aircraft unless each such retired aircraft is maintained in type-1000 storage [which] means storage of a retired aircraft in a near-flyaway condition that allows for the aircraft to be recalled into use by the Regular or Reserve Components of the Department of the Air Force.”

Falling for the ruse either foolishly or knowingly, some media describe the language as “something of a compromise” or emphasize the “near fly-away” condition of the A-10 fleet after it is sent to the boneyard at Davis-Monthan.  However, a simple check of what “type-1000 storage” means reveals that the aircraft will be made un-flyable and sealed in two layers of latex, which can be removed and the aircraft made operable only after considerable effort.

However, the storage condition of the aircraft is not the real reason they will be unavailable.  With the entire fleet to be sealed in latex, there will be no A-10s flying to maintain a cadre of qualified pilots and maintainers.  That cadre is to be disbursed throughout the Air Force or retired.  Without ongoing training and combat operations, their skills will erode to the point of evaporation.  It is not just the extraordinary characteristics of the A-10 itself that make it such a lethal system; it is the hard earned skill levels-very unique for the close air support mission-of the pilots, maintenance personnel and ground controllers.

The Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan may be able to prepare the A-10s for flight operations in a few weeks, but there will be no one to fly and maintain them, nor the cadre of ground combat operators who best know how to use the unique A-10.  Those skill levels will take months, rather years, to restore to the level that they are at today.

Some have immediately seen through McKeon’s ruse; note the comments of Senators Ayotte, McCain, Graham and Chambliss in a press release of Tuesday May 6; note their acknowledgement that “Units will be stood-down, training will no longer occur, and crews will be re-assigned.”

McKeon’s decision to entertain such a phony compromise comes as a surprise.  While McKeon has won himself a reputation with objective observers for primarily being a play-thing of the defense manufacturers due to his being so much on the take for their political contributions (as shown by his file at OpenSecrets.org), such politicians are usually also willing to show how stoutly they “support the troops” by funding weapons in use-and effective-in combat.  McKeon would seem to have evolved to a different calling: he is retiring at the end of the current Congress; he continues to litter his nest with campaign contributions; he apparently is “over” supporting the troops with weapons that work.

There is no shortage of money for keeping the A-10.  That is clear in the draft NDAA that McKeon is recommending to the House Armed Services Committee.  McKeon compiled a list of 28 programs that he added money for in the bill.  It all costs an extra $5.8 billion, and the $400-$600 million needed to preserve the entire A-10 fleet in 2015 would only have ranked fifth or sixth in size of the programs he added-including $796 million for refueling a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and $800 million for an amphibious warfare ship, both of which the Navy did not select to fund.

To pay for his $5.8 billion in add-ons, McKeon found a commensurate amount of offsets to keep the overall bill at the level required by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and subsequent congressional budget deals. McKeon did not even tap the huge amount requested to fund the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter ($8.3 billion), and he even set up another huge slush fund-not yet tapped-in the form of $6.2 billion for procurement and $64.7 billion for operation and maintenance in a $79.4 billion fund-as yet neither specified nor even formally requested by the Obama administration-for operations ostensibly for the war in Afghanistan.  Known as the Overseas Contingency Operations account, this $79.4 billion fund is just a placeholder amount based on the funding requested for 2014; it is still pending a decision in the Pentagon on what will actually be needed for the significantly reduced American presence in Afghanistan in 2015.  Nonetheless, McKeon wants to keep it at the inflated $79.4 billion level-with no telling what other programs he will shower with the excess funds.

In short, one thing Buck McKeon was not short of in his decision to sell out the A-10 was money.

The final irony-to put it politely-comes with Buck McKeon’s assertions about the war in Afghanistan, itself.  In his fact sheet on his version of the NDAA, he exhorts the Obama administration to keep a robust number of troops in the conflict there, saying the “mission cannot be carried out with fewer than 10,000 U.S. troops.”  With his A-10 sell-out effected, those troops will not have the lethality against the enemy they can only have with the A-10.

Buck McKeon is not just selling out the A-10; he is selling out those American forces in Afghanistan-and possibly elsewhere-in the future that will not have the A-10 to support them.

Winslow T. Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight.  He spent 31 years working for the Government Accountability Office and both Republican and Democratic Senators on national security issues.

 

More articles by:

Winslow T. Wheeler is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight.  He spent 31 years working for the Government Accountability Office and both Republican and Democratic Senators on national security issues.

December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Macdonald Stainsby
Unist’ot’en Camp is Under Threat in Northern Canada
Senator Tom Harkin
Questions for Vice-President Bush on Posada Carriles
W. T. Whitney
Two Years and Colombia’s Peace Agreement is in Shreds
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
Ramzy Baroud
The Conspiracy Against Refugees
David Rosen
The Swamp Stinks: Trump & Washington’s Rot
Raouf Halaby
Wall-to-Wall Whitewashing
Daniel Falcone
Noam Chomsky Turns 90
Dean Baker
An Inverted Bond Yield Curve: Is a Recession Coming?
Nick Pemberton
The Case For Chuck Mertz (Not Noam Chomsky) as America’s Leading Intellectual
Ralph Nader
New Book about Ethics and Whistleblowing for Engineers Affects Us All!
Dan Kovalik
The Return of the Nicaraguan Contras, and the Rise of the Pro-Contra Left
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Exposing the Crimes of the CIAs Fair-Haired Boy, Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan Patriotic Front
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail