Two prominent Iowa veterans spoke out on Thursday against President Obama’s proposed military cuts, which would result in the loss of almost 500 Iowa jobs. The Obama administration wants to retire the F-16 jets flown by the famed 132nd Fighter Wing, which is based in Des Moines.
“Under the proposal of President Obama, we will have the smallest navy since 1916,” said Chuck Larson, Sr., a retired Army Reserves colonel and former U.S. attorney. “We will have the smallest army since 1940 and we will have the smallest air force in history. I know from observing throughout my life that it takes time to rebuild those national security capabilities. They are critical to our role in the world and we should have a Commander-in-Chief that understands that.”
Gene Nosco is the President of the West Point Society of Central Iowa and a retired Lt. Colonel in the Army. He says the 132nd Fighter Wing is vital to protecting military members who are in harm’s way.
“I would say shame on the Vice President,” Nosco said. “The loyalty that he should be showing, because his son was protected by those military members, it’s totally lacking. I would say shame on the President, who again is making those same promises he made four years ago to create jobs, to spark the economy. Whether it’s from a lack of ability or whether it’s from a lack of true understanding, these jobs we have here in the heartland are vitally important to not only the security of the nation, but they’re very important to us.”
Last week, Governor Branstad testified in front of the House Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C., arguing in favor of keeping the 132nd Fighter Wing.
Iowa Congressman Tom Latham announced on Thursday that the U.S. House would approve an annual appropriations bill that would block the proposed retirement of the F-16s. The defense appropriations budget passed later in the day on a 326-90 vote.
“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.”
However, inaction by the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate poses a risk to the plan. The Senate has not passed a budget in more than 1,000 days and it is unlikely they will do so before the end of the year.
“In Iowa alone, the White House-backed proposal reportedly will cut the 1,250 personnel assigned to the unit nearly in half,” Latham said. “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.”
Chuck Larson, Sr., who served in Iraq in 2004-05 as the Justice Department’s senior adviser to Ambassador John Negroponte, believes President Obama fails to comprehend the important role U.S. the military has played in protecting freedom around the world.
“It’s misunderstanding perhaps and not appreciating the history of the United States,” Larson said. “Things such as the apology tour through Europe. I don’t know if he realizes 104,000 Americans are buried in Europe. We’ve come to their defense not once, but twice. He doesn’t have appreciation for the importance of national security.”
Larson and Nosco acknowledge that cuts need to be made in the budget. However, they suggested those cuts come from other areas where waste exists, such as the government funding of so-called “green energy” operations like Solyndra.
“We need to be very careful when we increase programs, when we increase government regulation, when we give money to organizations as part of a political event. Crony capitalism, if you will,” Nosco said. “When we gave three quarters of a billion dollars to Solyndra and then that money was distributed to their executives and bankruptcy was declared weeks ago, that’s what I feel should be cut.”
The veterans spoke to reporters at the Republican Party of Iowa headquarters on Thursday morning. Larson and Nosco are both supporters of Mitt Romney.