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Laura Gardner/The Journal Gazette
Maj. Shawn Gardner, left, with Mayor Tom Henry, Maj. Gen. R. Martin Umbarger, Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, and Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, before Saturday's news conference

Congressmen go to bat for air base

Reps. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd, and Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, said Saturday they will do their best to prevent the Air Force from retiring the 21-plane fighter squadron at Fort Wayne's Air National Guard base.

"This is a bipartisan effort. This is all hands on deck for so many reasons," Stutzman said at a news conference in a hangar at the 122nd Fighter Wing.

"It makes no sense to target one of the most efficient units," he said, noting the Air National Guard provides 35.percent of Air Force capacity for 6.percent of its budget.

"Financially, all the facts are on Fort Wayne's side," said Donnelly, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate.

"Our country saves money by having such an extraordinarily well-run operation and an operation that is so effective as well," he said.

Aides to Republican Sens. Dan Coats and Richard Lugar and Reps. Dan Burton, R-5th, and Mike Pence, R-6th, attended the news conference.

The Air Force announced in February that as part of a plan to cut $50 billion in costs, it will replace the A-10 combat jets at the 122nd Fighter Wing with nine to 11 MC-12W turboprop planes used for surveillance and intelligence missions.

The move would eliminate 152 jobs at the base, including 85 full-time personnel, because the fighter wing would no longer maintain weapons and munitions. More than 1,200 people work at the base, including 364 full-time airmen.

Maj. Gen. Martin Umbarger, the adjutant general for the Indiana National Guard, said the Guard has made a counterproposal to the Air Force that would cut the number of A-10s at the 122nd Fighter Wing from 21 to 18. Some jobs would be lost as a result, but far fewer than if the A-10 squadron is replaced, Umbarger said.

"We are still early in this debate," Umbarger said at Saturday's news conference, an A-10 Warthog jet behind him.

Stutzman said Congress has until October to either pass a budget or extend appropriations for the Department of Defense.

For more on this story, see Sunday's print edition of The Journal Gazette or visit www.journalgazette.net after 3 a.m. Sunday.

bfrancisco@jg.net

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