2 from Michigan champion the A-10 in Congress--and right now, they're winning

May 26, 2014

An A-10 Thunderbolt
An A-10 Thunderbolt
Credit wikipedia

If Congress has its way, it looks like the country’s fleet of A-10 warplanes will keep on flying for at least for another year.

The Obama Administration has repeatedly tried to retire the A-10 “Warthog,” an aircraft with origins in the Cold War era. The Defense Department says it’s now obsolete.

But that argument seems to be going nowhere, thanks to the A-10’s champions in Congress, including two key supporters from Michigan--Senator Carl Levin, and Congresswoman Candice Miller.

Miller’s Macomb County district is home to the Selfridge Air National Guard base, which has a fleet of 18 Thunderbolt II A-10 fighters. She argues the plane is still a key military asset.

Speaking on the House floor earlier this month, Miller, a Republican, said that support for the A-10 is “based on facts: the cost-effective nature of these aircraft, and the strong support of our soldiers, who depend on the close air support provided by the A-10.”

The House overwhelmingly passed a version of the country’s annual defense spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes $635 million in funding for the A-10.  

That bipartisan support carries over to the Senate, where Levin, a Democrat, is also working to protect the A-10’s future.

Levin chairs the powerful Senate armed services committee, and plays a key role in shaping the annual defense budget.

Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill last week, Levin said the committee has approved a bill that includes another reprieve for the A-10.

“We included funding to keep the A-10 aircraft, which are less costly and more capable than currently available alternatives, flying for another year at least,” Levin said.

The Senate draft version allocates $320 million for the aircraft. Levin said those costs would be offset by cuts to military personnel accounts.

Congress and the Obama Administration are on a collision course over military spending. The Defense Department wants to cut billions from the Pentagon budget through a variety of measures, including retiring aging aircraft like the A-10.