Defense Appropriations Bill Prevents Cuts to Key Air Force Programs

Jun 20, 2014 Issues: Defense & National Security

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Tom Cole (OK-04), a member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, released the following statement after the House passed H.R. 4870, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2015. The legislation passed by a vote of 340-73 and includes an amendment authored by Cole that addresses the Administration’s proposed cuts to the United States Air Force. 

In March, the Air Force announced that it would remove nearly 500 active and reserve aircraft from its inventory over the next five years, including the inactivation of seven E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft stationed at Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City and the de-establishment of the 513th Air Control Group (ACG) consisting of 520 reserve military personnel. Cole’s amendment prohibits the Air Force from removing those seven AWACS from its inventory, sustains the 513th ACG and provides the necessary funding to keep the aircraft active.

Ahead of the bill’s consideration and passage on the floor, the Office of Management and Budget at the White House stated its objections to the bill, including Cole’s amendment to preserve and fund AWACS. The White House statement claimed that Cole’s provision would “prevent the Air Force from using funds to divest or to disestablish units of the active or reserve component associated with E-3 airborne warning and control system aircraft” and “force the Air Force to take funding from higher priority defense needs in order to operate, sustain, and maintain aircraft that are not needed and are unaffordable in today’s constrained fiscal environment.”

“Not only does this legislation fund our military personnel, readiness and operations at home and abroad, but it also preserves critical capabilities that the Administration foolishly wants to eliminate,” said Cole. “In particular, I am pleased that the legislation passed by the House prevents the proposed deactivation of seven AWACS assets stationed at Tinker Air Force Base and provides the funding to keep them.

“For decades, the Air Force has utilized AWACS in crises and conflicts across the globe. Still today, our AWACS fleet is not sitting idly by or lacking missions. Making cuts to the fleet and its only reserve personnel would noticeably strain our military and weaken our warfighting capability. Unfortunately, the president refuses to recognize that if we intend to win and prevent wars in the future, America needs AWACS. While the president thinks these fully-utilized aircraft are not needed, the risk we take in eliminating them is not one that can be remedied later. Once these aircraft are deactivated, they are fully dismantled, only usable for parts, and never operational again.

“America’s strength is its Command and Control. The Administration’s recommended reductions to the size and capability of the AWACS fleet would significantly impact our Armed Forces in future conflict and jeopardize America’s national security interests,” concluded Cole. 

In addition, Cole also supported funding again this year for the C-130 Avionics Modernization Program (AMP). It has been the intent of Congress since 2013 that the Air Force obligate funds to continue and complete the program which would replace and standardize the 1960s era cockpits with the latest electronics to keep the C-130H fleet flying.  

###

Contact: Sarah Corley (202) 225-6165