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The Journal Gazette

Friday, June 30, 2017 1:00 am

Defense bill aids local Guard

Urges Air Force to deploy F-16s as soon as it can

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

The nearly $700 billion federal defense bill approved late Wednesday night by the U.S. House Armed Services Committee aims to speed the planned switch-out of combat jets flown by Fort Wayne's Air National Guard base.

Stating that Congress last year authorized the replacement of A-10 attack jets at the 122nd Fighter Wing with F-16 fighter jets, the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act “en­courages” the Air Force “to execute this transfer as soon as possible.”

The measure was added to the defense bill by Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, when the legislation was drafted this month by Armed Services Committee subcommittees. His measure also directs Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to brief the full committee by Sept. 1 on basing decisions affecting A-10s and F-16s.

Although the trade of planes at the 122nd Fighter Wing has been planned by the Defense Department since 2014, Wilson testified this month at a Senate committee hearing that A-10s would be flown at the base for at least the next five years.

Also Wednesday, Banks joined with Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., to introduce legislation titled the Veterans Acquiring Community Care Expect Safe Service Act, also known as ACCESS.

The bill would prohibit health care providers who were fired or suspended by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs from participating in VA-administered community care programs, including Choice, which lets VA patients receive care from private-sector physicians.

bfrancisco@jg.net