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Smith Statement on the Air Force’s Seemingly Political C-130J Basing Decision

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, today issued the following statement after the United States Air Force (USAF) announced their preferred locations for Air National Guard C-130J main operating bases, including one location in Georgia, which inherently politicizes the announcement amidst the ongoing Senate runoffs in the state.
 
“I am disappointed that the Air Force rushed today’s announcement, a decision that could mar the service’s historically repeatable, transparent, and deliberate strategic basing process, which until now has helped insulate basing decision from political influence. While the rigor of the strategic basing process may support the selection of these four locations, the timing of the announcement raises serious concerns.
 
“First, the C-130 force structure is still under deliberation as part of the National Defense Authorization Act and Defense appropriations conference process. The USAF force structure decision may not be supported by the final conference outcomes and are contingent on whether Congress authorizes and appropriates additional C-130 aircraft not included in the FY21 budget request – without that authorization and appropriation a fourth site is not necessary.  
 
“Second, Congress was briefed on June 25, 2020 that three preferred locations would be selected and now it appears the Air Force is deviating from the plan to announce an additional location. Congress has not even decided whether to fund the additional aircraft that would justify a fourth site, and the Air Force is already deviating from their previously articulated preference.
 
“The Air Force has traditionally avoided making basing announcements near an election so as not to be accused of playing politics with force structure decisions. In this instance, the timing and decision to include Savannah, GA in the announcement, when Georgia is focused on Senate runoff elections, raises questions about the Secretary’s motives.
 
“The Air Force did not need to make this decision now – plain and simple – and should delay moving forward with these basing actions until conference negotiations have concluded and the decision is not at risk of being politicized. If the Air Force plods ahead, the service runs the risk of undermining the strategic basing process and may force Congress to take action to protect the basing process from being used to potentially influence congressional action or election outcomes.”
 

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