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House panel punts on A-10, U-2 cuts

Apr. 30, 2014 - 05:31PM   |  
The A-10 fleet, which the Air Force wants to eliminate, gets no mention in a House panel's markup of the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill.
The A-10 fleet, which the Air Force wants to eliminate, gets no mention in a House panel's markup of the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill. (Airman 1st Class Benjamin Wiseman/Air Force)
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The House Armed Services Committee’s version of the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill ignores the biggest budget fight of the year: the Air Force’s proposal to retire the A-10 attack jet and U-2 reconnaissance aircraft.

The tactical air and land subcommittee’s markup of the bill, released Wednesday, does not mention A-10 or U-2 retirement. The Air Force recommends retiring the fleets to save money, but a group of lawmakers has vowed to block the move.

The markup does include language aimed at reining in the costs of the F-35 program, an aircraft the Air Force has chosen to pick up the close air support role handled by the A-10. It directs the comptroller general to report on program costs every year that the jet is in production. In fiscal 2015, the markup would allow for 34 F-35s for all services. The Air Force requested 26 F-35As.

The markup also includes all 12 MQ-9 Reapers the Air Force has requested for 2015.

The Air Force, in its budget proposal, cancels the planned Combat Avionics Programmed Extension Suite, a plan that would upgrade the avionics and radars for 300 F-16s. The committee does not reverse the cut, but instead directs the Air Force to report on other plans to upgradethe F-16 fleet and on the risks to the fleet of canceling the CAPES program.

The Air Force is also directed to report to Congress by October on the plan to address a lack of F-15 and F-16 spare engines.

Also Wednesday, the readiness subcommittee released its markup on the defense bill, and puts pressure on Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Pacific Command to increase their airlift and tanker presence as the U.S. military shifts increasingly to the Asia-Pacific. The committee’s language hints at the possibility of increased tanker basing in the region.

“Given current budget constraints and the risk in the readiness accounts, the committee is concerned that rotational presence may not be the most fiscally prudent means of airlift and refueling requirements, especially in light of the potential sequestration,” the subcommittee said in the markup.

The markup calls on PACAF and USPACCOM to brief Congress by March 30 on the cost of the current tanker presence in the Pacific, on the cost of permanently stationing tankers in the Western Pacific and on plans for future basing of tankers in the region.

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