Ayotte wants answers on A-10 cuts, blocks Air Force nominee

Thursday - 9/26/2013, 1:46pm EDT

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H) is blocking any Senate action on Air Force secretary nominee Deborah Lee James, until she gets answers on possible cuts to the A-10 Thunderbolt fleet, an aide to the senator said.

The aide said Ayotte wants to ensure that the Air Force doesn't prematurely end the aircraft.

The news was first reported Wednesday by the Defense News.

Ayotte, the ranking member on the Senate Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, first raised concerns about potential cuts to the attack aircraft fleet during James' Sept. 19 confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Questioning James, Ayotte read a slide from the Air Combat Command saying that the A-10 fleet would be divested by Fiscal Year 2015.

"What that makes me concerned is that there already has been a decision made on the A-10. ... The A-10 has a very important function in terms of close air support," she said, adding that 60 soldiers had been saved in July in Afghanistan thanks to A-10 support.

James responded that she had no knowledge of a decision being made on divesting the A-10 fleet or any other aircraft.

"All of this is pre-decisional," she said. "However, it is my belief, that planners and people who are looking at budget and possible scenarios are looking at options and everything, including complete divestitures of aircraft fleet, these things are possibilities. They are on the table."

Ayotte described herself as a strong supporter of the F-35, the fifth-generation fighter.

"But until the F-35 is operational, we can't be giving up our capacity, particularly important capacity that protects our troops," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to the reporting of this story.

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