Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., plans to keep the hold on President Obama’s nomination for Air Force secretary due to her concerns about the services’ plan to retire the A-10 Warthog.
Air Force officials have been working to provide responses to A-10-related questions raised at a Sept. 19 confirmation hearing for Deborah Lee James, President Obama’s pick for Air Force secretary. Ayotte placed the hold on the James after the hearing and has yet to relinquish it.
“Senator Ayotte found some of the responses she received from the Air Force to be insufficient, and she now awaits answers to several follow-up questions she submitted,” an official with Ayotte’s office told Military.com.
Obama nominated James to take over the role of Air Force secretary from acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning, who stepped in after the retirement of the services’ former secretary Michael Donley.
Air Force leaders have said they plan to retire the A-10 because of budget restraints and the aircraft's limited performance in contested airspace. The Air Force plans to replace the A-10's mission with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the F-16.
Ayotte, by contrast, feels the Air Force is retiring the battle-tested aircraft too soon before a suitable replacement can be identified.
“As ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee, Senator Ayotte’s central concern is that our troops have the close air support they need to accomplish their missions and return home safely. The A-10 has saved many American lives, and Senator Ayotte is concerned that the Air Force might prematurely eliminate the A-10 before there is a replacement aircraft—creating a dangerous close air support capability gap that could put our troops at risk,” an aide to Ayotte said in a statement to Military.com.