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Sen. Ayotte Puts Nomination of New Air Force Secretary on Hold

Image: Sen. Ayotte Puts Nomination of New Air Force Secretary on Hold

Thursday, 26 Sep 2013 03:53 PM

By Dan Weil

Sen. Kelly Ayotte is holding up the confirmation of Air Force Secretary-nominee Deborah Lee over the senator's concern that the Air Force may retire all A-10 jets.

The Republican from New Hampshire is worried that dumping the A-10 might hurt U.S. military strength and questions whether there's an adequate replacement for it, one of her aides told The Hill.

"She wants to make sure the Air Force does not cut an aircraft prematurely that saved 60 lives this summer in Afghanistan," the aide said. "In other words, she wants to ensure there isn’t a capability gap that could result in lost American lives."

The Air Force is considering dropping full fleets, including the A-10, to comply with the effects of the government sequester, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told the House Armed Services Committee last week, The Hill reports.

"I love the airplane . . . It is the best airplane in the world at what it does," he said. But, "if we're going to look at what we must divest, not what we want to divest, . . . we have to be very honest with ourselves inside the Air Force about how much we can afford."

Welsh said the A-10 may be less useful than some other planes. "If we have platforms that can do multiple missions well and maybe not do one as well as another airplane, but the airplane that is limited to a specific type of mission area, becomes the one most at risk," he said.

The Hill says Ayotte's hold on Lee's appointment "delays what had appeared to be a confirmation with little opposition."

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