Rep. Candice Miller was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2002 after many years serving constituents in offices from Harrison Twp. Supervisor to Michigan’s Secretary of State. Congresswoman Miller represents Michigan residents and businesses in the 10th Congressional District, which includes Selfridge Air National Guard Base, the only active duty air base in Michigan.
Selfridge Air National Guard Base is one of Michigan’s greatest military and Homeland Security assets and includes units from every branch of the U.S. military; Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard as well as important intelligence gathering and Homeland Security centers. Selfridge is located on 640 acres of lakefront property and employs nearly 3,000 full-time civilian and military personnel in addition to approximately 3,000 members of the Air and Army National Guard and the Reserve components of the U.S. Armed Forces.
After the horse-trading that followed the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process (BRAC), the A-10 Warthogs became the main air-frame and the only fighter jets in service at Selfridge. Amidst much controversy and national and political pressure this year, the U.S. Air Force has made a decision to eliminate the A-10s, which could leave Selfridge with no fighter capabilities and a greatly diminished air mission.
On the front lines to save the A-10 mission in Michigan is Representative Miller, who along with some of her Michigan House and Senate colleagues have kept the budget debate raging in an effort to save this important unit at Selfridge.
Congresswoman Miller, as a former Supervisor in Harrison Twp., where the base is located, and because your husband was once Base Commander, you know Selfridge as well as anyone…can you give an overview of Selfridge and its value to Michigan?
Team Selfridge, which includes some of the most dedicated men and women serving this country, represents every branch of the U.S. military and multiple agencies within the Department of Homeland Security. Its strong interagency relationships and coordination truly serves as a model for the entire military.
In fact, back in January, the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force released a report that underscored the vital role of our National Guard, specifically highlighting the effectiveness of the 127th Wing of the Michigan Air National Guard based at Selfridge. According to the report, based in part on their visit to Selfridge, the Air Force should place greater reliance on the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve to lower overall military personnel costs and produce a more ready and capable force.
Additionally, we continue to see new investments at Selfridge, like the munitions facilities complex and recent fueling infrastructure improvements, which I believe are an acknowledgment of the base’s value to America’s military readiness and security.
According to Defense Secretary Hagel, retiring the A-10s could save the Pentagon nearly $3.5 billion over five years. What is the argument to keep the A-10s flying?
The argument, which I have been making since 2012, is simple: they don’t have a plane that can replace it.
The A-10 might be old, but it has proven to be ideally suited for its mission. It’s lethal, it’s incredibly effective, and when our troops on the ground hear it coming, they know what it means.
Just last month, U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno told Congress that our ground troops “believe” in the A-10 and have confidence in its ability, above any other aircraft, to protect them in combat. For the past 13 years, it has been the champion, workhorse aircraft in theater in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and, with what’s happening in Iraq and the Middle East right now, eliminating the A-10 is the absolute wrong move.
Our troops put their lives in harm’s way to protect ours, and they deserve every protection we can afford to provide them – including the A-10 ground support, which is why I have fought so hard to keep them operational until we have a suitable replacement that our troops can believe in.
You are a leader in the Congressional delegation advocating the continuation of the A-10 program. Are there proposed alternative cuts to offset the savings proposed by Secretary Hagel?
Last year, the President’s proposed budget sought to retire the A-10 fleet and we worked together to keep the A-10s.
This year, once again, the Air Force has proposed retiring the A-10s, but my amendment to keep them flying passed the House 300-114. Now the A-10 champions in the Senate must follow suit. This fight is not just parochial, although hundreds of jobs at Selfridge are impacted; it is principally about keeping a cost-effective aircraft – one that the troops love – flying.
Please tell us about the economic advantages to south eastern Michigan provided by Selfridge?
Between active military, reserve and civilian positions, Selfridge employs thousands in the area and accounts for approximately $5 million in contracts annually. It is located in the heart of this nation’s Defense Corridor where some of the world’s largest defense contractors manufacture cutting edge aerospace and military vehicles.
Last month, I visited Global Tooling Systems in Macomb County and was impressed with their operations and forward-thinking designs. Companies like Global Tooling, General Dynamics and BAE Systems continue to invest in technological advancements in military operations, which also benefit our community and economic success.
While defense budgets are constricting, more of the future budgets are being dedicated to aerospace and unmanned units including unmanned aerial systems. Do you have any advice to Michigan businesses engaged or thinking about engaging in the aerospace or unmanned sectors?
I think that many of these companies are already modifying their approach to meet the future needs of U.S. defense capabilities. That’s how our Defense Corridor has evolved to become known as this country’s Arsenal of Innovation. They know that innovation, creativity and excellence are critical to their success and they are delivering.