Congressman Jim Bridenstine Preserves National Defense Capabilities in Oklahoma
Washington, DC, May 7, 2014 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Congressman Jim Bridenstine won three significant victories today to retain national defense capabilities in Oklahoma. The National Defense Authorization Act for FY15 is being considered in the House Armed Services Committee, with final approval expected late this evening.
Congressman Bridenstine offered three successful amendments which will benefit Oklahoma. One provision saves three AWACS aircraft and the 513th Air Control Group that employs over 350 people at Tinker Air Force Base. Additionally, these measures modernize Air National Guard C-130 aircraft and preserve funding for the National Guard State Partnership Program. Each of these programs was cut in the AdministrationÍs proposed budget, but by identifying lower priority areas where efficient cuts could be made, national security and Oklahoma will benefit, at no increased cost to taxpayers.
HR 4435 to authorize the annual budget for the Department of Defense next moves to the House floor for consideration.
The three amendments Congressman Bridenstine presented which benefit Oklahoma include:
1. Curtail Cuts to AWACS Aircraft and Protect the 513th Air Control Group. The Air Force proposed to cut seven Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft based at Tinker Air Force Base and disestablish the 513th Air Control Group, costing Oklahoma over 350 jobs. The Bridenstine amendment authorizes funding for three AWACS and prevents disestablishing the 513th ACG until and unless the Secretary of the Air Force meets a certification requirement. Tinker hosts 27 AWACS and the 513th ACG is the only unit in the Air Force Reserve dedicated to flying and maintaining AWACS.
Congressman Bridenstine said: "Cutting the 513th is not acceptable. In association with the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker, the 513th provides aircrews and maintenance crews that have unmatched experience with the AWACS fleet. The crisis in Ukraine shows we need more of these high-value assets, not fewer. In todayÍs volatile world, maintaining a strong military with versatile command and control capability is essential. This is just the first step, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Appropriations Committee to ensure that we fully protect the assets and the people at Tinker."
2. Mandate the Air Force Fund the C-130H Avionics Modernization Program. The Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) modernizes and standardizes cockpits for the aged C-130H fleet flown by the Air National Guard. The Air Force plans to fly C-130Hs through 2040, but the Department has ignored legislation that funds C-130 cockpit modernization. Although Congress authorized and appropriated funding for AMP in FY12-FY14, the Pentagon has refused for three years to obligate the funds. The Bridenstine amendment prohibits the Secretary of the Air Force from spending money on her Pentagon staff until the Air Force restarts the AMP program that Congress has demanded for the past three years.
Congressman Bridenstine said: "As a Navy pilot, I know that cockpit standardization and modernization contributes to safety. Air National Guard aircraft are always the last to receive upgrades. Air Guard C-130s are flying with equipment from the 1960s. AMP modernizes a fleet of transport aircraft that the Air Force will use for decades. Congress wants AMP. If the Air Force wants to keep ignoring Congress, then my amendment is going make it painful for the Secretary."
3. Retain Funding for National Guard State Partnership Program. 68 partnerships in 75 countries benefit U.S. strategic interests. Oklahoma's National Guard partners with Azerbaijan to improve their interoperability with U.S. forces. Azerbaijani crude and natural gas production and pipelines are critical to lessening EuropeÍs dependence on Russia. The PresidentÍs FY15 budget requests cutting the State Partnership Program (SPP) by over 50%. The Bridenstine amendment restores FY15 funding to FY14 appropriated levels for the program.
Rep. Bridenstine said: "Oklahoma's National Guard has a great partnership with the strategically important country of Azerbaijan. The return on investment for SPP is enormous. Making our partners more capable makes them more independent from Russia. I'm pleased that my colleagues agreed to restore $10 million in funding."
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