At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) questioned the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Frank Kendall III, and highlighted the importance of improving Pentagon acquisition processes to save taxpayer dollars and to ensure that we provide our service members the support they need.
During the hearing, Ayotte pointed out that, from 2007 to 2013, the Air Force terminated twelve major acquisition programs—wasting $6.8 billion on weapons systems and programs that our service members will never use. Secretary Kendall responded to Senator Ayotte’s questions saying, “I regard the cancellation of a program after we spent a few years and a few billion dollars on it as almost pure waste and one of the greatest tragedies the department faces.”
Ayotte pointed out that, “if the Air Force had cut their acquisition failures on major defense acquisition programs just by 10 percent in the years…between 2007 and ’13, there would be the equivalent [of] more than enough savings to afford keeping the entire A-10 fleet [for FY15]…”
Senator Ayotte is Ranking Member of the Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee and has pushed the Pentagon to improve its acquisition processes. She has also led the effort in the Senate to prevent the premature divestment of the A-10—an airframe that the Army Chief of Staff, General Raymond Odierno has said, “…is the best close air support platform that we have today…And it’s performed incredibly well in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our soldiers are very confident in the system…”
In an article in POLITICO, Jeremy Herb writes, “The battle to preserve the 280-plane A-10 fleet, which the Air Force is prepared to retire, is shaping up as one of the biggest fights between Congress and the Pentagon. Already, backers in the House are readying amendments that could add between $400 million to $635 million in A-10 funding in the 2015 defense authorization bill.”
Contingency plans are being made in the form of A-10 amendments should House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon fail to include money for the A-10s in his chairman’s markup, which will be released Monday, according to POLITICO.
“If it doesn’t, we’re going to be offering some kind of approach to keep it flying,” Barber told POLITICO on Wednesday. “I talked to the chairman on the floor two days ago specifically about this. … He said we’re doing our best to get something in the base [bill]. But whether it goes in or not remains to be seen.”
Herb reports that McKeon “has indicated he’d like to restore funding for the A-10 fleet, which conducts close-air support missions. But with the Pentagon’s base budget capped at $496 billion, it could be difficult to find a way to do so. The Air Force’s decision to retire the fleet is meant to save $4.2 billion over the next five years.”
Barber is trying to save whatever he can and has set his sights on a smaller figure in order to keep the planes flying through fiscal 2015, according to POLITICO.
Chief Master Sergeant (retired) Chuck Wooten, a staunch supporter of the A-10 and candidate for Congress in Southern Arizona, which is the home of Davis Monthan Air Force base said, “Acquisition failures have been widely publicized and documented in the Air Force for some time and they have now created a crisis where the Air Force must now choose to retire a very unique airframe in the A-10 along with reducing pay and benefits to Airmen and their families to make up for the waste. In my experience as a senior Air Force leader, this is nothing short of a bureaucratic, colossal failure of leadership within the acquisition community and the Air Force should immediately complete a bottoms-up review of the acquisition processes and ferret out additional waste. The A-10 must remain in service.”
Master Sergeant (retired) Eric Brandenburg—an Afghanistan and Iraq combat veteran and former Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) who earned a Silver Star and five Bronze Star medals for actions during combat related to close air support— has said the following about the A-10: “The A-10 is a uniquely capable close air support aircraft and the best in DoD’s inventory. I am—like many of my former colleagues—alive today because of the A-10. If the A-10 had been divested the last time the Air Force wanted to do so, I would likely have not returned home from combat to my family. When our troops are in danger of being overrun, we must send the best assets to help them. If the A-10 is not available in future conflicts when our ground troops call for help, Americans will needlessly be injured and killed.”
A-10 pilot, Lt. Col. Tom Norris said, “Not only does the USAF treat taxpayer dollars like “free money,” as Senator Ayotte pointed out, but also treat our Sons and Daughters as expendable by trying to divest the best Close Air Support Aircraft in the world!”