Bipartisan amendment would prevent premature divestment of A-10 Thunderbolt II that could create close air support capability gap
Washington, D.C. - As the U.S. Senate begins work on the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, for Fiscal Year 2014, Idaho Senator Mike Crapo has joined Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) and Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) to introduce an amendment aimed at preventing the Air Force from prematurely retiring the A-10 Thunderbolt II. The senators amendment would prevent the Air Force from retiring any additional A-10s until the Air Force certifies that it has a sufficient number of fully operationally capable F-35As to replace the retiring A-10s and to meet combatant commander close air support requirements. The amendment also requires the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) to verify the Air Force's certification.
The Senators are concerned that a premature divestment of the A-10 Thunderbolt II by the Air Force would create a dangerous close air support capability gap that could unnecessarily endanger American service members in future conflicts.
"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," said Crapo, Ayotte, Blunt and McCaskill in a joint statement. "When our ground forces call for help, our nation must be prepared to answer and to provide the best possible close air support. A premature divestment of the A-10 before its replacement has achieved full operational capability would put our troops at increased risk, and we are not prepared to accept increased risk for our soldiers and marines because of a potential misallocation of budget cuts."
Crapo added, "The Idaho Air National Guard at Gowen Field is the proud home to an A-10 mission. A decision to prematurely divest the A-10's would increase risk to our national security and would have a significant impact on the future of Idaho's Air Guard. Finding ways to achieve savings across government agencies, including defense, must remain a priority. However, our fiscal climate should not be an excuse that agencies hide behind to avoid justifying the decision-making process, particularly when such decisions may have detrimental impacts on our readiness. The GAO report required by this amendment would help ensure that the decision-making process is guided by our country's national security requirements and not primarily for political or short-term gains."
The National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) endorsed the amendment, authored by Senators Ayotte and Blunt, on Monday saying, "Senator Ayotte and Senator Blunt are right on target," said retired Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, the NGAUS president. "For years, our ground troops have enjoyed the world's best close-air-support aircraft. It has allowed them to accomplish their missions and return home safely. Anything less should be unacceptable to a nation that supports its troops. We urge senators to co-sponsor and support the Ayotte-Blunt Close Air Support amendment (#2063)."
Crapo, last week joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of U.S. Senators and Members of Congress in sendinga letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, expressing similar concerns regarding the potential divestment of the A-10.
During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on November 7, General Raymond Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, testified, "The A-10 is the best close air support platform we have today…it's performed incredibly well in Iraq and Afghanistan."