DES MOINES (AP) — The Air Force asked Congress on Tuesday to approve cutting 459 positions at the Des Moines-based Air National Guard unit.
The Iowa National Guard said the cuts represent a 39 percent reduction in staffing at the 132nd Fighter Wing unit, which flies F-16 combat jets. That amounts to 81 full-time jobs and 378 military positions.
Air Force officials said they want to eliminate all 21 F-16s based in Des Moines.
Iowa politicians reacted strongly to the Air Force's request, arguing the Iowa-based fighter wing is cost-effective and should be maintained.
"The 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines has been recognized as one of the top performing units in the country," Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin said in a statement. "It simply makes no sense to take away its mission and cut it so deeply."
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said he wants proof that the Air Force has made a reasoned decision in recommending the deep cuts.
"Fiscal responsibility and stewardship dictate that the Air Force should use a cost-benefit analysis that looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the active and reserve forces," Grassley said in a statement. "It's not clear that such a process has been used, and the Air Force needs to account for its approach."
Grassley said he would join in a concerted effort in Congress to reverse the decision if he comes to the conclusion that the Air Force's action isn't what's best for taxpayers.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad also promised to oppose the effort, saying he would lead a nationwide effort as co-chairman of the Council of Governors to "ensure that the complete value of the National Guard is reflected in national policy and the Pentagon budget."
The Iowa Guard said the Air Force also recommended the 185th Air Refueling Wing, based in Sioux City, lose one plane, but that plan isn't expected to mean significant job changes.
Congress has the final say on the matter.
The Air Force wants to cut $8.7 billion in spending, while retiring 303 aircraft worldwide.
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