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Rep. Latham Seeks to Keep F-16s at Des Moines Base

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Rep. Tom Latham has introduced a bill to try to keep the F-16 aircraft at the Iowa Air National Guard's 132nd Fighter Wing in Des Moines.

The bill has the backing of each member of Iowa's federal delegation, the Des Moines Register reported. That includes Rep. Leonard Boswell, who will leave office in January. Latham, a Republican, and Boswell, a Democrat, were thrown into the same district when new political maps were redrawn following the 2010 census, and Latham defeated Boswell in November to represent Iowa's new 3rd Congressional District.

But although Iowa's delegation is united on the issue, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley said there appears to be little chance of reversing action by a House-Senate panel this week to eliminate all 21 F-16 jets housed at the Des Moines Air National Guard Base.

U.S. House and Senate negotiators agreed to a deal Monday that will mean the removal of the jets. The base will remain open, and few airman positions will be cut. An earlier plan had called for a cut of nearly 380 jobs out of 1,000, but congressional aides said earlier this week that the number of jobs lost could now be as low as 32.

The 132nd Fighter Wing will be replaced by a unit that remotely controls unmanned planes, according to the proposal. The aircraft will be based elsewhere and may be oversees.

For months, Latham and other congressmen had worked to block the Air Force from retiring Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve aircraft, allowing time for a cost-benefit analysis by the Government Accountability Office.

"House and Senate negotiators erred in adopting the White House's wrongheaded plan to cut key Air Force assets without proper justification, and my bill would make amends for their mistake," Latham said in a written statement. "Choosing to eliminate a historically successful and reliable fighter wing like the 132nd is a serious decision, and to not weigh the consequences with a cost-benefit analysis and an evaluation of the national security implications is just foolish."

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