Nov 19 2013

Blunt, Ayotte Introduce Measure To Ensure Troops Have Necessary Close Air Support

Bipartisan Amendment Would Prevent Premature Divestment Of A-10 Thunderbolt II

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) this week introduced an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) aimed at preventing the U.S. Air Force from prematurely retiring the A-10 Thunderbolt II. 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.  The 442nd Fighter Wing is stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

The amendment, which is also being co-sponsored by U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Mike Crapo (Idaho), 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. 

“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 Blunt, Ayotte, McCaskill, and Crapo 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.”

The National Guard Association of the United States (NGAUS) endorsed the Blunt-Ayotte amendment on Monday saying, “Senator Ayotte and Senator Blunt are right on target,” said retired Major General 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).”

Last week, a bipartisan, bicameral group of U.S. Senators and Members of Congress sent a 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 U.S. 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.” 

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