Statement On The Bond-Leahy Amendment On Tactical Aircraft Retirement

Mr. President, I rise in support of the amendment offered by Senator Bond to temporarily suspend the retirement of tactical aircraft by the US Air Force.
For months, Senator Bond and I as co-chairs of the Senate National Guard Caucus have repeatedly questioned Air Force and Department of Defense leadership what it was doing to address a looming shortfall in available aircraft for Air National Guard Units.  The Air Force acknowledges this issue and I know has spent a great deal of time studying options on how to address the shortfall.
But after numerous requests at hearings and briefings for a concrete plan, at the start of the FY10 fiscal year today, we still do not have a plan.
That is why Senator Bond and I have proposed an amendment that temporarily suspends the retirement of tactical aircraft until the Secretary of the Air Force provides Congress with a roadmap that resolves the looming tactical aircraft shortfall.
Mr. President, the Air Force prides itself on being a so-called Total Force—a nearly seamless operation that incorporates active, guard and reserve forces to achieve its mission success.  I know the Air Force continues to value and rely on our air national guard and reserve units.  Unfortunately, at this point they have not addressed enough attention to the aging airframes in these guard and reserve units.
I hope this amendment prompts the Air Force to conclude its deliberations so that our National Guard and Reserves never get to point where there are units that have the best trained pilots and technicians in the world but there are no aircraft on the tarmac.

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