By Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, Special to the Arizona Daily Star
Tucsonans have good reason to be concerned over the possibility of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base losing its 83 A-10C “Warthogs” and the jobs they bring to this community.
The secretary of defense has proposed doing away with the A-10 altogether — cutting short its planned life span by more than 10 years, even though it’s not yet clear when other aircraft will be able to take its place. The A-10 was designed to support ground troops. It flies low and slow, getting in close to where it can distinguish between enemy and friendly forces and eliminate threats. Many U.S. and allied troops owe their lives to the A-10 and its pilots.
The reason for this proposal is the sequester passed by Congress — a move opposed by our Southern Arizona congressional delegation, I might add. Rep. Ron Barber in particular has been a staunch defender of the A-10.
Decisions regarding national defense are not made at City Council meetings. They’re made at the Pentagon, the White House and in the halls of Congress. While eventually the A-10 will be replaced by new technology, a false urgency is being created by the sequester. This is a problem Congress created; therefore, it’s a problem Congress has the ability to solve.
What Tucsonans can do is contact our U.S. senators and representatives and urge support for Davis-Monthan and the Arizona Air National Guard — Tucson’s other military installation — so that both continue their strategic importance, and so that both continue to attract new missions.
Tucson has far more to offer than great flying weather, which we have in abundance. We also have expertise in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), space exploration, solar, optics, logistics and information technology — all areas relevant to our military.
Already, D-M and the ANG host a variety of missions, including UAS, training, search and rescue, communications and command. We need to build on that variety, attracting missions that extend into the future. It’s simple: The more broad and deep the expertise, the more secure the base. No one mission will be the “silver bullet” that secures the future of D-M or the ANG.
Clearly, the A-10 is not going away just yet without a fight. But whatever the decision regarding the A-10, we need to work now — today — to keep D-M and the ANG central to military planning, to attract missions that extend into the future.
As mayor, my approach to economic development has been to build on our strengths, our industry clusters. Aerospace and defense is our largest industry cluster, and our military installations are a big part of that.
Over the years, missions at D-M and the ANG have changed as technology and threats to national security have changed. What has not changed is the commitment and professionalism our airmen, guardsmen and civilian personnel bring to their jobs — on the ground and in the air.
More than a year ago, Tucson’s City Council passed a resolution in support of D-M and its missions. That support remains constant, as does support from the community as a whole. Let’s make sure Washington hears that support, before it makes cuts that would affect D-M or the ANG.