WASHINGTON — A Senate committee on Thursday approved funding for all of the AWACS planes currently at Tinker Air Force Base, virtually assuring that the current complement of command-and-control aircraft will survive another year.
Now, both the House and Senate spending bills for the Department of Defense protect all 27 planes stationed at Tinker and used by active duty and reserve units. The Defense Department had proposed saving money by retiring seven of the planes and eliminating the reserve unit’s role.
The full House has already approved the funding. The bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday includes nearly $60 million for operations and personnel for the AWACS fleet. The $549 billion bill would also protect the A-10 fleet of planes that the administration wants to retire and grant a 1 percent pay raise to all Defense Department employees.
Since both the House and Senate committees that oversee defense spending agree on the AWACS, the issue is effectively decided for the fiscal year that begins in October.
Inhofe, Cole defend planes
Sen. Jim Inhofe, of Tulsa, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Service Committee, has protected Tinker’s AWACS in the separate defense bill that sets Pentagon policy.