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Wicker: Taking Apache Helicopters From the Guard Could Set Mississippi Back

WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Apache Helicopter is being discussed this week in Senate hearings and the plan may be to take the Apache away from the National Guard and give it to the U.S. Army. U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said the move could set Mississippi back.

“From my conversations with the National Guard, the loss of this program would set many states, such as Mississippi, back a decade. I also think it would do great harm to active Army and National Guard units, which have operated seamlessly since 9/11,” said Wicker, Tuesday, questioning Gen. Mark Milley, nominee to be Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army.

There are reports that the Army intends to implement the Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI) as early as Oct. 1. The plan would begin the transfer of Apache helicopters from the National Guard to the Army before the National Commission on the Future of the Army completes its recommendations on combat aviation assets, future missions, and force mix, said a news release from Wicker.

“The intent of Congress is clear,” said Wicker. “There should be no transfers of helicopters away from the Guard until the Congress receives and reviews the findings of the Army Commission. Making these drastic and irreversible force structure changes to the Guard before we have had the chance to see what the Commission has to say about ARI would not be advisable.”

Gen. Milley stated that he would “await the results of the Commission and pay attention to their recommendations very closely.”

The FY2016 “National Defense Authorization Act” (NDAA) contained a provision to limit additional Apache helicopters from being transferred away from the Army National Guard until Congress reviews the findings of the Army Commission report that is due in February 2016. NDAA is currently being negotiated by a joint House-Senate conference committee for final congressional approval.

The Army Commission was created by a provision authored by Wicker and Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., in last year’s defense bill.

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