With the new Congress in office, the Air Force will likely move to cut A-10s for good and ask for yet another round of base closures, despite the previous Congress repeatedly pushing back against the down-sizing.
The five-year Department of Defense budget President Barack Obama is preparing to table for Feb. 2 already violates the 2016 sequestration cap of $523 billion dollars, meaning that the Air Force is looking around for some serious cuts, Federal News Radio reports.
According to Air Force Secretary Deborah James, the main rationale for hard consolidation is that the Air Force is the worst offender for excess equipment in the DOD. James cited a 2004 study that found that 24 percent of resources are currently going unused. Bases are set to be cut, as well as fleets of aircraft, like the A-10.
But Congress isn’t willing to give up the A-10 attack aircraft without a fight. In December, Congress voted against getting rid of the A-10, placing a prohibition on the Air Force. Last Thursday, according to The Hill, former A-10 pilot and Republican Rep. Martha McSally from Arizona argued that “The A-10 continues to be a critical asset to our military and its ability to provide close air support to our troops, demonstrated by the fact that we currently have A-10s deployed in the fight against ISIS.”
The number of A-10s in the fight is substantial. On Jan. 15, Secretary Deborah James confirmed that A-10s have conducted 11 percent of the sorties against ISIS, saying that the “Warthog” fighters have played a crucial role in providing support fire. But James made sure to emphasize that other fighters comprise the vast majority of deployments against ISIS, namely F-16s, F-15Es, the B-1 bomber, and the F-22. The F-16 is the most common, at 41 percent of sorties.
Although it’s been an Air Force staple and a favorite of Congress for a very long time, as the F-35 arrives, maintenance personnel will have to be shifted to the new aircraft. James did not state which aircraft will be cut in the next budget, although the widely held assumption is that A-10s will be first to go. The Air Force is firmly set on elimination, rather than simply scaling back on the number of A-10s in the force.
Aside from the aircraft, Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby emphasized that the Air Force is looking for another round of base closures under BRAC, in addition to the already announced base closures in Europe. The European plan will result in an annual savings of $500 million dollars, and the closure of 15 facilities.
“We know this is not an easy thing for the Congress to take up and to deal with. But the secretary wants very much to work with the Congress as we move forward to try to get another round of BRAC,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby stated. “It really is necessary, and it’s time. It’s overdue, actually.”
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