Senators Look to Protect A-10 Fleet

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) introduced an amendment on Nov. 19 to the Fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill, now being debated on the Senate floor, restricting the Air Force’s ability to divest the A-10 fleet until it has enough fully operational F-35s to fill any potential close air support gap. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) also co-sponsored the amendment. “While the Air Force confronts difficult budget decisions, we believe the Air Force must protect programs that are central to our nation’s combat readiness, as well as the safety of our service members in harm’s way,” wrote the senators in a joint statement released Nov. 19. Ayotte had placed a hold on Deborah James’ nomination to be the next Secretary of the Air Force over this same issue, though she lifted that hold in mid-October after the Air Force answered a series of questions on its plans for the A-10 fleet. This introduction of the amendment comes a week after a bipartisan group of 33 lawmakers urged Defense Department leaders to hold off on any plans to cut the A-10, requesting DOD first conduct a close air support study. National Guard Bureau Chief Army Gen. Frank Grass told reporters Nov. 19 he does not oppose the Air Force’s plan to divest the A-10 fleet, even though it is flown by several Guard units. “If the Air Force makes the decision to remove a platform because it can’t afford everything they have, there’s no reason for the Guard to hang on to that platform,” he said.