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Archive for Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Pentagon: No delay for the B-1

July 11, 2001

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— The Pentagon plans no reprieve in its decision to reduce the nation's B-1 bomber fleet, an aide to U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts said Tuesday, contradicting what he said was a misunderstanding by lawmakers who met with Pentagon officials Monday.

Roberts and Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Todd Tiahrt had said the decision to reduce the nation's B-1 bomber would be delayed at least 16 months. They based their announcement at McConnell Air Force Base on a meeting with Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Joseph H. Wehrle, and other Pentagon officials.

"I think it was just a misunderstanding on fiscal as opposed to calendar year, but it's a fairly major distinction," said Roberts' chief of staff, Leroy Towns.

Towns said the lawmakers mistakenly thought the Pentagon would delay its decision until next year. The Pentagon intends to move in fiscal 2002, which begins Oct. 1, Towns said.

As for assurances that the Kansas Air National Guard would get another airplane if the bomber is cut, Towns said, the promise is "feeble."

The contradiction came Tuesday morning after Roberts and Sen. Max Cleland, D-Ga., met with the Air Force chief of staff on Capitol Hill.

The U.S. Defense Department announced earlier this month its plans to mothball a third of its fleet of the 93 supersonic planes by Oct. 1.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld wants to retire 33 of the planes, 18 of them flown by Air National Guard units in Georgia and Kansas. The proposal would consolidate the fleet at bases in South Dakota and Texas.

Still unchanged is the lawmakers' intention to try to keep the bombers permanently at McConnell.

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