BOISE -- As the federal government looks at restructuring the military through budget cuts, Gowen Field could potentially face even more changes than initially thought.
As reported last month, the Idaho Air National Guard stands to lose all its planes under the budget proposals, because military recommendations include stopping the A-10 Thunderbolt II (nicknamed Warthog) program, which is the only type of plane the Air Guard has at Gowen.
Now, the city of Boise has learned proposed budget plans could also move the Idaho Air National Guard from Gowen Field in Boise to Mountain Home Air Force Base. More than 1,000 jobs are associated with the current A-10 program in Boise.
I think as anybody might expect, we're all concerned about what the future holds for us, Colonel Tim Marsano said. We're looking at the possibility of things happening where we would actually take some of our folks and move to Mountain Home and learn how to operate and maintain the F-15E Strike Eagle. And we know we would be welcomed there with open arms, should that happen. We're also wondering if we're going to stay at Gowen field either flying this aircraft [A-10] or another. The future has a lot for us to learn.
Boise city officials say a lot of the specifics of different program changes in each state aren't readily available in printed form for the public. Boise Mayor Dave Bieter found out about the proposed move for the operations currently at Gowen while he was in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago.
That's something the mayor is concerned about. He doesn't think it's a good move for the city or the Guard itself, spokesman Adam Park said.
Park says the city stands to lose $80 million annually in terms of money infused into the local economy through more than $60 million in payroll at Gowen and $20 million in contracts and construction. The city is hoping people will write to congressmen and senators to keep Idaho Air National Guard operations in Boise.
Ultimately this decision will be made on the federal level, but we can make some noise and let people know we care about Gowen and want them to stay here, Park said.
Bieter's office is asking questions of officials and question why the federal government would consider relocating the program and operations.
As proposed, Gowen Field would be the only A-10 base in the country that's not receiving a new mission should the A-10 be retired, Park said. Every other A-10 base has been told they would receive a new mission while Gowen is being sent to a co-location with another mission in Mountain Home. That doesn't make any sense to us, and we'd like to know why that's happening.
The city is also bringing up concerns that the Idaho Air National Guard could face issues getting citizens to join and stay in the program if they moved to the east. Marsano says recruitment is a consideration.
There's certainly some concern about picking up operations from Gowen Field here in the middle of the Treasure Valley and then moving 50 or 60 miles down to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Marsano said. Because our recruiting base frankly is here in the Treasure Valley area. We don't know what that would mean, and really it's maybe a little too soon to start thinking about that. We need to see what the final decision is on base changes.
The Idaho National Guard says there is no timeline for knowing the future of its program in the state. Mountain Home would welcome the guardsmen if moved to the base.
We don't know if this would come to pass, what that would mean for all of those folks. It is possible that some would go to Mountain Home Air Force Base and integrate with them down there, some would stay here. But the honest answer is at this point, we just don't know, Marsano said.