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Congress to Air Force: Push to Retire A-10 'Misguided'

U.S. lawmakers again rejected the Air Force's proposal to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft, calling the decision "misguided."

Congress on Tuesday agreed to a sweeping $612 billion defense bill, called the Fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which sets policy goals and spending targets for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

A fact-sheet distributed by the House Armed Services Committee, headed by Rep. William "Mac" Thornberry, a Republican from Texas, references the Air Force's controversial proposal to divest its fleet of Warthogs, some of which are flying missions in the Middle East as part of Operation Inherent Resolve to target militants affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.

"Rigorous oversight, endorsements from Soldiers and Marines about the protection only the A-10 can provide, and repeated deployments in support of OIR have persuaded many Members from both parties that the budget-driven decision to retire the A-10 is misguided," the document states.

"The NDAA restores funding for the A-10 and prohibits its retirement," it added. "Unlike past efforts to restore the platform, the NDAA identifies specific funding to restore personnel, and preserve, the A-10 fleet."

The legislation -- which President Obama has threatened to veto over tens of billions of dollars added to the war budget to avoid federal spending caps -- includes $467 million for the A-10.

Language in the bill would require Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James to maintain a minimum of 171 A-10 in combat-coded status, meaning available to fly missions. It would also direct her "to commission an independent entity outside the Department of Defense to conduct an assessment of the required capabilities and mission platform to replace the A-10 aircraft."

The Air Force has proposed retiring its fleet of almost 300 Warthogs over the next several years to save an estimated $4.2 billion a year and free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a stealthy multi-role fighter jet and the Pentagon’s most expensive acquisition program.

During a press conference on Wednesday at the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said he recommended for Obama to veto the legislation, which is up for a vote in the House on Thursday. He cited the "attempts to evade responsibility with the so-called OCO gimmick," referring to the $38 billion from the base budget added to the war budget, or funding for overseas contingency operations.

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