Ayotte’s Office Explains Hold on James’ Nomination

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) last week placed a hold on Deborah James’ nomination to be the next Air Force Secretary because Ayotte “wasn’t getting answers she had requested” on whether the Air Force seeks to retire the A-10 fleet, according to Ayotte’s spokeswoman Liz Johnson. “We understand the Air Force is in the process of responding to the senator’s questions, and when she receives a substantive response, she will release the hold,” Johnson told the Daily Report on Sept. 27. Ayotte’s central concern is that US ground troops “have the close air support they need to safely accomplish their missions,” and that the Air Force does not “prematurely eliminate” A-10s “before there is a replacement aircraft that will ensure there isn’t a capability gap,” said Johnson. Ayotte’s staff contacted the Air Force on Sept. 16 requesting answers on the A-10 issue before James’ nomination hearing on Sept. 19. The response didn’t come, said Johnson. Ayotte then asked James about the A-10 during the hearing. Still not satisfied, Ayotte submitted more questions on Sept. 23, placed the nomination on hold on Sept. 24, and informed the Air Force she wouldn’t lift the hold until she received a substantive response.