Weekly Columns

Arkansas is home to the lowest-cost fighter unit in the entire U.S. Air Force. The A-10’s flown by the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith are the lowest-cost fighter aircraft, operated by the lowest-cost command and housed at one of the lowest-cost bases. While few people may realize these stats, the Arkansas Congressional delegation is telling the story of why this air unit is good for our national security and our bottom line and we have a great audience willing to listen.

U.S. Representative Randy Forbes, chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness, brought his “Defending our Defenders” cross-country listening tour to Fort Smith to experience the work done by members of the 188th.

Chairman Forbes is a strong advocate for our servicemen and women and a key ally in our effort to maintain the mission of the 188th Fighter Wing. For months, he listened to our message of how the 188th excels in efficiency and cost effectiveness for A-10 units. Prior to the listening session, Chairman Forbes had an opportunity to meet some of the great men and women who serve in the 188th and heard firsthand from the leadership of the unit during our personal tour of the base.

There is no doubt the community and the state are behind the men and women of the 188th. Hundreds of area citizens, community leaders, retired members of the 188th and families of the men and women currently deployed with the unit took turns sharing their stories and concerns at the listening session.

Every audience member who spoke raised insightful points and shared personal stories about what the 188th means to them and the community. One question, repeated over and over again throughout the evening, was: “Why would the Department of Defense (DOD) want to change the mission of a unit that is consistently ranked among the best in the Air Force?”

We have repeatedly asked to see the cost analysis used by the Air Force and DOD to arrive at the decision to change the 188th’s mission. We have yet to receive this information. Chairman Forbes has not received it either. If the Department of Defense cannot provide the chairman of the readiness subcommittee and the members of the state’s delegation with the data, one has to assume it is because it does not exist. 

We all agree that wasteful spending needs to be eliminated, but arbitrary cuts to our national defense are very dangerous. The Department of Defense owes it to the country to provide the analysis for its recommendations. The country needs smart cuts, especially when it comes to our national defense, not massive random cuts that put our troops at risk.

We are grateful that Chairman Forbes came to Fort Smith to hear the concerns of the region regarding the future of the 188th. He understands that this is not just about Fort Smith, it is about the country. As Chairman Forbes put it, “We get a great deal of bang for our buck from the 188th.” It is the model of efficiency and cost effectiveness for A-10 units and we will continue the fight to protect the 188th.