House Committee Votes to Keep A-10 Funding Through 2015

Despite pleas from Air Force officials, lawmakers are refusing to let the A-10 become a casualty of sequestration.

<p>The Air Force's A-10 fleet is being retired under the fiscal year 2015 budget request.</p>
National Journal
Ben Watson, Defense One
May 8, 2014, 9:13 a.m.

The House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee voted to ad­opt an amend­ment that keeps the Air Force’s con­ten­tious A-10 “Warthog” air­craft fly­ing through the next fisc­al year.

The amend­ment passed through com­mit­tee late Wed­nes­day with a 41-20 bi­par­tis­an vote. It will be fun­ded by mov­ing $635 mil­lion over to the Over­seas Con­tin­gency Op­er­a­tions fund, which pays for the war in Afgh­anistan, where the A-10 has been used for years to sup­port ground troops.

“There’s no oth­er fixed-wing air­craft that can do the job the A-10 can do,” Rep. Ron Barber, D-Ar­iz., who pro­posed the amend­ment to this year’s Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act, said late Wed­nes­day.

In ad­di­tion to con­tinu­ing fund­ing and op­er­a­tions through the next fisc­al year, Barber’s amend­ment also calls for the Gov­ern­ment Ac­count­ab­il­ity Of­fice to study the best plat­form the Air Force should use for its close air sup­port mis­sions.

Air Force of­fi­cials said the plan to cut more than 300 A-10s would save the ser­vice al­most $4 bil­lion.

Dur­ing a Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing Tues­day on Cap­it­ol Hill, Sen. John Mc­Cain, R-Ar­iz., again dir­ec­ted heated ques­tions to both the Army and Air Force about re­tir­ing the A-10s. “I find it curi­ous that you come over here with all the ne­ces­sity for cost sav­ings and the A-10 cost for fly­ing hour is $17,000 per fly­ing hour,” Mc­Cain said. “Fact is that the B-1 is much more ex­pens­ive, it flies at high-alti­tude, and it at­tacks stat­ic tar­gets. That does not ful­fill the mis­sion of close air sup­port as I know it.”

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh replied that the F-16, not the B-1, is the primary re­place­ment for the A-10 on the bat­tle­field. “It’s already done more close air sup­port in Afgh­anistan than the A-10 has, and it will work with oth­er air­craft if the scen­ario al­lows it to provide the best pos­sible close air sup­port for our troops on the ground,” Welsh said. “We are ab­so­lutely com­mit­ted to it. We have been, and we will re­main so.”

The amend­ment also re­jects a plan pro­posed by com­mit­tee chair­man Rep. Buck McK­eon, R-Cal­if., to tem­por­ar­ily store the planes. That plan — in­volving what’s called type-1000 stor­age — was im­me­di­ately met by op­pos­i­tion from Mc­Cain and Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., Lind­sey Gra­ham, R-S.C., and Saxby Cham­b­liss, R-Ga. They is­sued a joint state­ment on Tues­day say­ing the tem­por­ary stor­age plan was no “com­prom­ise” but rather a “short-sighted and dan­ger­ous pro­pos­al to di­vest their most com­bat-ef­fect­ive and cost-ef­fi­cient close air sup­port air­craft.”

The amend­ment leaves the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee for a full vote in the House in two weeks. The Sen­ate will take up its own ver­sion of the NDAA around the same time.

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