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Arkansas Senator Confronts Air Force over Arkansas Fighter Wing

Senator Mark Pryor is concerned about the future of the 188th Fighter Wing

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a press release this afternoon, U.S. Senator Mark Pryor says he is "fed up with broken promises".

During a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing today, Pryor confronted Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh and Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley about the military's commitment the 188th Fighter Wing and the community of Fort Smith.

“All the Air Force has given me is excuses.

Arkansas deserves answers,” Pryor said.

“Why would the Air Force propose a mission change, and then not fund it?

The Air Force needs to fulfill its commitment to the 188th and the Arkansas Air National Guard. This isn’t over.”

The Air Force announced more than a year ago that it was scaling back its A-10 force and would remove planes from the 188th starting this fall.

Since then, Pryor has met with dozens of Air Force and Department of Defense officials, including Secretaries Panetta and Hagel.

In January, he made a joint visit to Fort Smith with General Welsh.

Following the visit, General Welsh told Pryor that the 188th would receive two replacement missions, a Remotely Piloted Aircraft mission and a 120-person targeting unit.

According to Pryor the Air Force Chief of Staff also pledged that the Air Force would work with the National Guard to maintain the Crash and Fire Rescue services at the Fort Smith Airport.

Pryor's office says the Air Force has failed to provide funding both in the FY13 and FY14 budget request for these commitments.

“This isn’t just a question of funding.

This is a question of morale and retention of the airmen who make up the 188th.

Just look at facts.

The 188th has proven itself to be one of the best Air National Guard units in the nation.

Why would the Air Force jeopardize that by taking their planes away without funding a new mission?” Pryor said.

“All these airmen have served Arkansas and our country with distinction.

They deserve better.”

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