To install this webapp, tap share then Add to Home Screen.


To install this webapp, please open in Safari.

Lawmaker/Former AF Officer: U.S. Needs Guard Fighters

07-06-23 WR Bacon WEBSITE
07-06-23 WR Bacon WEBSITE
Washington Report

A House member who is a retired Air Force electronic warfare officer and navigator says America’s airspace can’t be defended without all the Air National Guard’s fighter units.

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., adds that the language he helped insert in the House Armed Services Committee’s fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act would go a long way toward keeping all 25 Guard fighter squadrons in place.

Bacon's provision helps prevent the Air Force from eliminating any of the Guard’s fighter units without a plan for recapitalizing them.

With 25 fighter squadrons spread across 22 states, Bacon contends the nation needs the Guard’s capabilities amid rising threats worldwide.

Bacon's interest in the Guard's fighter squadron force structure stands out because none of the units involved are in his district or even his state.

The retired Air Force brigadier general with more than 1,700 hours in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft says he’s interested in doing what’s best for the country.

"We’ve got to be able to counter China in the western Pacific," he said June 28. "You’ve also got to be able to deter Russia and Iran.

"We don’t have the bandwidth if we cut out the Guard," Bacon argued. "And we need to have the bandwidth to defend this country."

Modernizing and recapitalizing the Guard’s fighter squadrons is a NGAUS legislative priority.

Bacon's retirement from the Air Force in 2014 ended a nearly 30-year military career that included serving in Iraq.

While serving in the armed forces, Bacon got to see the Guard in action and understand its role in daily Air Force missions worldwide.

"The Air National Guard is critical for providing us that capability and that readiness to fight a war in one area and deter in another area," he said.

Two weeks ago, the House and Senate armed services committees each approved their versions of the fiscal 2024 NDAA.

The HASC’s version of the annual defense policy bill included Bacon’s provision for maintaining the Guard’s fighter squadrons.

The language stipulates the Air Force secretary can’t eliminate a Guard fighter squadron’s flying mission without meeting certain criteria.

First, the Air Force and the director of the Air Guard must create a plan for recapitalizing all the Guard’s fighter squadrons.

This plan must include options for recapitalizing the Guard’s fighter squadrons with relevant or more capable replacement fighters.

After submitting a plan to the congressional defense committees, the Air Force must then wait 180 days before implementing any changes.

Bacon’s NDAA provision differs from the Fighter Force Preservation and Recapitalization Act (H.R. 3392) he introduced in May.

The bipartisan bill directed the Air Force to maintain at least 25 Guard fighter squadrons with a minimum of 18 primary aircraft authorized.

The measure also gave the Air Force secretary 120 days to submit a fighter aircraft recapitalization plan to the congressional defense committees.

"By having a bipartisan bill, I think we’ll get it through the Senate, and it will be signed by the president," Bacon suggested.

The full House will next consider the HASC version of the NDAA, while the full Senate will take up the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the bill.

Differences between the two must then be reconciled before a final version can be sent to President Joe Biden.

— By Mark Hensch

Correction: This article originally said Bacon was an Air Force pilot. It is more accurate to say Bacon was an Air Force electronic warfare officer and navigator.