f16_3Washington, DC – Iowa Congressman Tom Latham announced that the full U.S. House of Representatives will vote to approve an annual appropriations bill that would block the proposed retirement of 21 F-16s attached to the 132nd Fighter Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard.

Latham, Iowa’s only member of the House committee, has worked with colleagues on the committee and with U.S. House leadership for several months to usher through the mission protecting language, which could receive the approval of the full House of Representatives as early as Thursday.

“The 132nd Fighter Wing has served our country time and again with distinction and honor, but a misguided and irresponsible White House-backed proposal would summarily eliminate the fighter wing based on flawed assumptions, not a thorough analysis,” Congress Latham said.  “As we look for savings and efficiencies in the defense budget, we have to make sure the process remains accountable and based on solid facts, solid data and an unwavering commitment to strengthening our national security rather than taking risks with it.”

The language, included in the House’s FY 2013 Defense Appropriations bill, would freeze the proposed retirement of all Air Force aircraft, including the F-16s, for one year, effectively blocking the Obama administration’s plan with a legislative “time out.” Meanwhile, the legislation would require the Air Force to conduct a full cost-benefit analysis of the plan by October, with a review by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office within 120 days of its completion.

Latham did add a note of caution and concern that inaction on budget and appropriations bills by the U.S. Senate poses a very serious risk to the success of the blocking measure.  The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported late last week that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speculated that the Senate may choose to not pass any appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year.

Congressman Latham said that failure to complete the regular appropriations process jeopardizes the ability of Congress to halt the Obama administration from moving forward on the F-16 retirement plans for the 132nd when the new fiscal year begins on October 1.

“These are the types of problems created when representatives fail to do the basic jobs they were elected to do,” noted Congressman Latham.  “In Iowa alone, the White House-backed proposal reportedly will cut the 1,250 personnel assigned to the unit nearly in half.  That is the loss of hundreds of good-paying jobs in central Iowa, and the economic shock waves that would go deep into the community because of those job losses are unthinkable.  The Senate must do its job and move the yearly appropriations process along so that we can block this reckless cut.”

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