Governor defends Gowen Field and Mountain Home Air Force Base

April 17, 2014 

Butch Otter

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, in a column sent out to Idaho media Thursday, said the Idaho Air National Guard at Gowen Field and Mountain Home Air Force Base provide great value to the state and to the nation.

He said it's possible one or the other program could be sacrificed as part of national defense budget cuts.

"My message to Air Force Chief of Staff Mark A. Welsh III when he visits Idaho in May will be that such a choice ignores the tremendous value that both facilities represent," Otter wrote.

The Pentagon has proposed moving the Air National Guard to Mountain Home Air Force Base as part of a $3.5 billion cost-cutting move. The Air Force plans to retire the Idaho Air Guard’s 22 A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, which are used to protect ground troops.

With the proposed changes, the Air Force would refocus the Idaho Air Guard mission on the F-15E, a fighter that can attack targets in the air and on the ground. The Mountain Home base has 45 F-15s.

Idaho's congressional delegation and Boise Mayor Dave Bieter have questioned the plan to move the Air Guard from Gowen Field, part of the Boise Airport complex owned by the city. The Air Guard saves money by using the civilian airports runways and other facilities. Last year, the Air Guard's costs were less than $100,000, far less than what would have to be paid for new facilities in Mountain Home.

Otter, a veteran of the 116th Armored Cavalry with the Idaho National Guard, said Idaho's contributions to the national defense and local communities are respected and "held in high regard by military professionals."

He said high retention rates at Mountain Home and Gowen Field, along with proven readiness, reliability and other contributions prove their value. Personnel from both bases provide invaluable service during wildfires, floods and other natural disasters, he said.

"If the administration wants to talk seriously about putting these valuable defense assets to their highest and best uses, we’re listening. I look forward to Chief of Staff Welsh’s visit and the opportunity to make our case," Otter wrote.

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