WASHINGTON, D.C. - During a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing today on the U.S. Air Force budget and priorities, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) advocated for transferring HH-60G aircraft to New Mexico’s Air National Guard “Tacos” and increasing R&D funding at Air Force Research Lab.
During the hearing, Senator Heinrich reiterated to committee witnesses Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Chief of Staff of the Air Force General David Goldfein the value of transitioning HH-60G PAVE Hawk combat search-and-rescue helicopters to the N.M. Air National Guard when the new airframe becomes available. The Air Force currently plans to begin fielding its new HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter at Kirtland Air Force Base in the next two years. Senator Heinrich expressed that making the transition will help the Air Force with pilot production while also alleviating the stress on the 58th Special Operations Wing to train in both the legacy and new airframes. Senator Heinrich has long advocated to restore New Mexico’s Air National Guard Tacos’ flying mission.
Senator Heinrich also pressed the witnesses on increasing funding for Basic and Applied Research accounts, which is the foundation for defense labs like Air Force Research Lab at Kirtland AFB. Heinrich emphasized that Basic and Applied Research are the cornerstone of our military’s technical edge, and urged the Air Force to place a stronger emphasis on those accounts in future budgets. AFRL had a $659 million economic impact for the state in fiscal year 2016, which is up $124 million from the previous year.
A list of witnesses and testimony, and the archived webcast of today's hearing will be available here.