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  • Congress Has Lost Faith In Air Force Leadership, Defense Bill Preserves A-10

    Lawmakers agreed Tuesday in the annual defense bill to preserve another year of funding for the A-10 and called the Air Force’s attempt to sideline the aircraft “misguided.”

    A document from the House Armed Services Committee argues the A-10 is invaluable, evidenced even more so by its recent deployment against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve.

    “Rigorous oversight, endorsements from Soldiers and Marines about the protection only the A-10 can provide, and repeated deployments in support of OIR have persuaded many Members from both parties that the budget-driven decision to retire the A-10 is misguided,” the summary states.

    GOP Rep. Martha McSally and Sen. John McCain have long maintained the A-10 provides the best close-air support for ground troops.

    “The NDAA restores funding for the A-10 and prohibits its retirement,” a fact sheet said. “Unlike past efforts to restore the platform, the NDAA identifies specific funding to restore personnel, and preserve, the A-10 fleet.”

    This time around, the budget allocates $467 million for the A-10, and it specifically directs Air Force Secretary Deborah James to maintain 171 A-10s for combat. Also included is a mandate to create an independent commission to study exactly what capabilities a new aircraft would have to achieve, if the Air Force wants to suitably replace the A-10. Part of the reason the study has to be conducted outside the Department of Defense is that Air Force leadership has been accused of trying everything in its arsenal to kill the A-10 and promote the F-35 in its stead.

    In other words, Congress has lost faith in the leadership of Gen. Mark Welsh.

    The Air Force has tried repeatedly to retire the almost 300 A-10s in the fleet in order to repurpose the funds to help get the F-35 program off the ground.

    Unless President Barack Obama targets the legislation with a veto, the Air Force will be barred from sidelining the A-10 fleet. The $612 billion National Defense Authorization Act is somewhat of a gamble. Obama promised beforehand to veto the bill if it included harsh restrictions on transferring detainees from Guantanamo Bay and tried to circumvent spending limits with the use of the war budget. On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter reiterated the threat, saying he recommends that Obama issue a veto because of the $38 billion taken from the base budget and added to the war fund to skirt caps.

    Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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