September 28, 2016 5:00 PM
Last Friday it was announced by the Air Force that a portion of the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) based at Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins is being grounded due to concerns over maintenance work recently performed on four of the planes. These groundings come months after Georgia Senators Isakson and Perdue worked vigorously to include language in the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that would make the JSTARS program a top financial priority for national defense, but to no avail. Both senators have expressed their concerns over the groundings, insisting that they are symptomatic of an aging fleet that is in need of replacement.
Commenting on the need for a swifter recapitalization of the fleet, Senator David Perdue had this to say:
“Our JSTARS planes are over 60 years old and under the current recapitalization plan, our Combatant Commanders would face a service gap that could last anywhere between four to eight years. Soon, the fleet will not be able to properly fulfill their missions and their absence will put our women and men in uniform unnecessarily in harm’s way.”
Isakson and Perdue have long been fighting to ensure that the JSTARS program has the financial resources it needs to expedite a revitalization of the fleet, co-authoring a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter and attending a meeting with leaders from Robins Air Force Base in DC earlier this year as well as a separate meeting with Frank Kendall, U.S. undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
Senator Isakson insists that JSTARS is a key component in the United States’ engagements and must be prioritized, saying:
“Our warfighters combating ISIL and other terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East depend on JSTARS for its unmatched coordination of battle management and intelligence capabilities. We must do everything we can to support our warfighters, starting with expediting the process for acquiring the new platform for a JSTARS replacement.”
Both senators are obviously passionate about seeing to a redirection of funds to JSTARS so that it has the resources necessary operate efficiently, and they will no doubt continue to voice their concerns while taking measures in Washington to ensure that a recapitalization is carried out quickly. That battle continues in Conference Negotiations for action in the upcoming National Defense Authorization Bill.