WASHINGTON — Members of the Iowa congressional delegation met Thursday with Air Force Secretary Michael Donley but left the session saying they want more information about proposed budget cuts that would retire 21 F-16 fighter jets at a National Air Guard base in Des Moines.
The Des Moines base also might lose hundreds of Air Guard positions. The cuts to the 132nd Fighter Wing are part of broader defense trims included in the Obama administration's budget plans.
Iowa lawmakers are fighting the move, however, and issued statements after the meeting that they want to see more data to back up the decision.
"It is becoming clear that the White House's plan is not based on any sort of cost-benefit analysis to find the most efficiency or savings," said U.S. Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, who reiterated his call for a reassessment of the plan.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said he left the meeting with more questions than when the session started.
"The Air Force still cannot provide an adequate explanation for targeting Des Moines, the cost-effectiveness of decommissioning this unit or the impact it will have on the local community,'' Harkin said. "The 132nd is among the best in the country, and we will do everything in our power to keep them flying."
Harkin suggested that Guard and reserve forces give more bang for the buck than the regular military, and so they represent the wrong place to be cutting.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said he was discouraged that it seems the Air Force has already made up its mind.
"National Guard advocates in Congress are already signaling that they won't go along quietly with the Air Force's plan to take so many cuts out of the Air Guard," Grassley said.
Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, has planned a Friday meeting with Iowa business and community leaders to discuss the situation and strategies to prevent losing the F-16 jets.
Maj. Gen. Timothy Orr, adjutant general of the Iowa National Guard, will be present to answer questions, Boswell said, and a press conference will follow.
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