The Iowa Air National Guard wing based in Sioux City will lose one tanker plane but no airmen in proposed budget cuts outlined Friday by Air Force leaders.
An Air Guard base in Des Moines will be hit much harder: It is slated to lose 21 F-16 fighter jets, which will be retired next year, according to the Iowa Guard.
The Des Moines base also might lose hundreds of Air Guard positions, though a flurry of statements from Iowa's congressional delegation late Friday said they would fight those cuts.
“I cannot for the life of me understand why such a consistently high performing unit is being singled out for elimination of this function above all the other F-16 fighter wing units in the nation,” said Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa.
Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin said he requested a meeting with the secretary of the Air Force when he learned the 132nd Fighter Wing, the Des Moines-based unit, could lose its F-16s.
The fighter jets, if retired, eventually will be replaced by remotely piloted aircraft, commonly known as drones, an Iowa Guard spokesman said.
It's unclear how the loss of the tanker and the 21 fighters will affect the future size and composition of the Iowa Air National Guard, though Master Sgt. Duff McFadden did say no loss of airmen is expected in Sioux City.
Nationally, the Air Force plans to cut 9,900 positions — 5,100 from the Air National Guard, 3,900 from the active-duty Air Force and 900 from the Air Force Reserve.
That's a roughly 2 percent personnel cut to the Air Force, according to the military's 2012 budget.
The job eliminations are part of a plan to trim $8.7 billion from the Air Force budget as the military downsizes during Pentagon-wide budget cuts and as the post-Sept. 11 wars wind down.
“The best choice and course of action for us is to become smaller in order to project a high-quality and ready force that will continue to modernize,” U.S. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said Friday at a Pentagon press conference.
The Nebraska Air National Guard is not expected to be affected by the budget cutting, according to the plans released Friday. Air Guards in 26 states would be affected if the proposed cuts become reality, the Iowa Guard said.
Nationally, the Air Force plans to retire 286 aircraft, most of them flown by Guard or reserve units.
The news appears much better for members of the active-duty Air Force, such as those stationed at Bellevue's Offutt Air Force Base.
Donley said Friday that the Air Force won't use reduction-in-force boards, or RIFs, and likely won't remove any active-duty airmen who want to remain in the Air Force. That suggests that the loss of 3,900 positions in the active-duty Air Force will come through retirements.
The Iowa Guard's 185th Air Refueling Wing, based in Sioux City, will lose one KC-135R Stratotanker but keep the other eight refueling tankers it maintains and flies.
Some Guard leaders immediately criticized the national plan as being unduly harsh on the Air Guard.
Noting that senior defense leaders have said the planned $487 billion in budget cuts over the next 10 years will mean more reliance on the reserves, Retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett Jr., the Guard association president, said this plan “reduces the Air Force's ability to quickly respond to unforeseen contingencies in the future.”
This report contains material from the Associated Press.
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