Who Made These Cuts?

Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) is among lawmakers questioning why the Air Force plan to cut 254 legacy fighters has hit units in their states, but Heinrich was particularly incensed since the New Mexico Air National Guard’s 150th Fighter Wing is the only one to be left with both no aircraft and no mission. During the May 19 House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Air Force budget, Heinrich declared, “What makes absolutely no sense to me is that despite being ranked the No. 1 fighter base in the country during the 2005 BRAC process, Kirtland Air Force Base, which is located in my district, is now slated to lose its entire fighter mission.” In its Combat Air Forces restructure plan (see above), the Air Force listed probable outlooks for those units losing aircraft, but for Kirtland’s Air Guard unit the entry reads “future mission TBD.” Air Force Secretary Michael Donley responded: “We do understand that this is a difficult decision that affects many states and communities. …The reductions proposed were carefully balanced between overseas and CONUS locations and were carefully balanced between the active and the reserve, as well.” Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz added: “It’s important for the 150th, a good organization, as we both know, to think more broadly about what future opportunities there are for missions. Now, maybe they’re manned aircraft, maybe not. Maybe they are association missions with folks already at Kirtland, like the special operations wing that’s there.” Schwartz said that the service would be working with the New Mexico Adjutant General and others to determine “the best fit” consistent with the needs of the Air Force. Heinrich wanted to know, however, what specific criteria had been used, considering half the unit’s aircraft had gone through Falcon Star upgrades to extend their service life. Schwartz said that after “extensive analysis” of the fleet status, the service selected the Block 40 F-16s, such as those at the 150th FW, as “the ones that we should accelerate retirement.”