The House Appropriations Committee has voted down a proposal to keep the US Air Force's fleet of A-10 aircraft flying. (Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon / Air Force)
WASHINGTON — House appropriators on Tuesday killed an amendment that would have kept alive the Air Force’s A-10 fleet, becoming the first defense panel to endorse the service’s cost-cutting plan.
The House Appropriations Committee broke with the House and Senate Armed Services committees, which last month used budgetary cuts from elsewhere in the Pentagon’s budget to keep the A-10s flying for one more year.
The amendment to keep the A-10, offered by Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., was shot down via a show of hands, with 13 members voting for it and 23 voting to kill it.
It would have transferred from other parts of the Air Force’s operations and maintenance account $339.3 million “for sustainment of A-10 aircraft operations.”
He and other panel members voiced support for the amendment despite the air service’s wishes to retire the aging fleet to save money, arguing no other aircraft can perform the close-air support mission like the “Warthogs.”
Defense subcommittee Chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., however, warned if the panel backed the amendment, the Air Force next year would propose cutting other fleets like its B-2 bomber or F-16 fighter — or retiring them completely.
Frelinghuysen said retiring the A-10s would save “billions, not millions.”
Defense subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., said Air Force leaders have said the A-10 would not be among their priorities if the service suddenly got more funding.
He also told his colleagues “we are the Appropriations Committee, we have to pay for things,” suggesting the proposed offset was not budgetarily sound.
But Kingston and others shot back that the A-10’s per-hour operational costs are lower than any other aircraft that can conduct the close-air support mission.
“If we’re saving money, why would we eliminate the least expensive aircraft to run?” Kingston asked.
He also noted the A-10’s sortie rate in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying: “This is not something that’s yesterday’s aircraft.”