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Lamborn amendment would hamper planned cuts at Peterson Air Force Base

May 7, 2014 Updated: May 7, 2014 at 6:26 pm
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Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Rep. Doug Lamborn hopes his amendment to the defense budget will snarl the Air Force's plan to eliminate a flying squadron and four C-130 aircraft at Peterson Air Force base.

Lamborn's provision blocks the cut until the Air Force can prove that taking 200 airmen from Peterson Air Force Base's 302nd Airlift Wing won't damage the unit's aerial firefighting ability.

It was one of nearly a dozen amendments the Colorado Springs Republican proposed to a defense bill as he battles claims from Republican and Democrat rivals that he's an ineffective legislator.

Of Lamborn's proposed amendments, a few had ties to Colorado Springs and his 5th Congressional District. Others would boost a missile that uses microwave energy to disrupt computer networks and a mobile laser system, require a report on defense contractor dealings with Iran, and push war plans for the Arctic.

The amendments were added to the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets military spending priorities and policies for 2015.

"The main priority is to get the job done," said Lamborn, who was hopeful Wednesday that his ideas will remain in the bill after the Democrat-controlled Senate finishes with it this summer.

Another Lamborn amendment aims at quieting a squabble between the Air Force Academy and its neighbors by requiring the Pentagon to complete a regional land use study to balance training needs of the military against community concerns.

Neighbors have complained that noise from cadet flight training is disrupting life in neighborhoods east of the campus.

"My priority is to make sure the training mission of the Air Force Academy cadets is not compromised, but if there is any way that training can be done and still accommodate the needs of the neighbors, that would be my wish," Lamborn said.

Lamborn also inserted an amendment that would start a study on a new military and veterans clinic in northern El Paso County run jointly by the Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs.

Lamborn's opponents were sizing up the amendments Wednesday.

Bentley Rayburn, a retired Air Force major general who is challenging Lamborn in a GOP primary, said he was studying the legislation and had no immediate comment.

Democrat Irv Halter, also a reired Air Force two-star, issued a quick barb questioning if Lamborn is too eager to take credit for legislation that is a long way from becoming law.

"One of the differences between serving in the military and being a politician in Washington is that in the military we don't claim credit until the job is done," Halter said. "There are some good things in this legislation, but there are a lot of steps until it is signed into law. And we should wait until the process is completed to judge the results."

Halter called Lamborn's amendment to avert Peterson cuts "a reasoned approach" but said it's odd that the incumbent is crowing about other amendments with less impact to his district.

"He realizes that a lot of the folks around here are looking for results and he's pretty shy on those," Halter said.

Lamborn's move to hamper planned cuts at Peterson may have some traction in Congress.

While aerial firefighting represents a fraction of the 302nd Airlift Wing's duties, the push to cut a squadron from its ranks set off alarms for Colorado lawmakers who watched its airmen battle the Black Forest and Waldo Canyon fires.

Colorado's Democratic Sen. Mark Udall has said he's also hunting for ways to block the cut.

Lamborn's plan would require the Air Force to study the impact of the cut and would forbid it unless the Air Force can attest that it wouldn't impact firefighting.

"The transfer of the aircraft can't take place until that certification has been made," Lamborn said.

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