While Tucson’s representatives wring their hands as their Tucson constituents are about to lose the core of an economic force, the A-10 at Davis Monthan Air Force base, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte is showing them and the country how to fight for something you believe in. Ayotte has blocked the confirmation of the new Air Force Secretary, Deborah Lee James, until the Air Force responds to her concerns about its plans to divest its entire A-10 fleet.
In comparison to Ayotte’s strong stand, the actions by Arizona Representative Ron Barber and his congressional challenger, former A-10 pilot Martha McSally, look like nothing but grandstanding.
Pease Air National Guard Base, NH, is the Air Force’s largest presence in Ayotte’s state and does not house any A-10s, unlike Arizona, which is proudly the home of the A-10. Ayotte’s colleague, Arizona’s Senator Jeff Flake, has been as absent in the A-10 fight as he was on the Senate floor during Friday’s cloiture vote.
A briefing slide obtained by Inside the Air Force, from Ayotte’s office which was first revealed by a Tucson radio talk show host, includes a chart that depicts a scenario in which the Air Force divests its A-10s in fiscal year 2015.
Inside the Air Force reports, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and ACC Commander Gen. Mike Hostage have said recently that the service is seriously considering removing the entire A-10 fleet — as opposed to cutting aircraft from multiple fleets.
According to Inside the Air Force, Richard Lombardi, the Air Force’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition Integration, confirmed for reporters what was first reported over a month ago, “If the Air Force decides to divest the A-10 fleet, that decision would be made as part of the FY-15 program objective memorandum (2015 POM), which the Air Force briefed this week to Pentagon Acquisition Chief Frank Kendall.”
Lombardi confirmed the report that the Air Force had intended to cut the A-10 even before 2015, when Lombardi admitted that “decisions about halting ongoing maintenance and upgrade programs would need to be made in FY-14.” However, Lombardi said a significant piece of the process would be Congress’ response to the prospect of removing the fleet.
Already, A-10 pilots report that their training schedules have been cut.
“If there are some adjustments that we would want to or have to make in ’14, we can possibly do that,” Lombardi said according to Inside the Air Force. “But what we don’t want to do is presuppose a decision for Congress. So that’s the balance that we continue to plan. It’s pre-decisional. We’re going to have to continue to work through it with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and then as we submit the president’s budget to the Hill.”
Inside the Air Force reports that “until that time, Air Combat Command will continue to execute fleet upgrades, including the installation of new wing sets. ACC has installed 30 new wings onto the Air Force’s A-10 fleet and expects prime contractor Boeing to deliver four more upgrade kits by the end of the month.”
Col. James Flattery, the Air Force’s A-10 systems Program Manager, told Inside the Air Force in a Sept. 25 email that the program office has not received any guidance on when the wing replacement and other upgrade programs might be put on hold should the service decide to eliminate the A-10 fleet.