Armed Services panel moves to save A-10

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee plan to introduce an amendment Wednesday that would delay retirement of the Air Force's A-10 fleet, according to chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.).

The amendment will be introduced during Levin's markup of the 2015 defense authorization bill, which the committee is planning to consider on Wednesday during a closed meeting.

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The Pentagon has recommended cutting the A-10 fleet in order to save more than $4 billion in the next five years, but the amendment would postpone that from happening for at least a year.

The amendment will be sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and cosponsored by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), one of the A-10's fiercest champions in the Senate.

The House Armed Services Committee approved its version of the defense bill earlier this month, which included a plan that would also prevent the A-10 fleet's retirement for at least a year, but that bill uses wartime funding known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) to pay for it.

Pentagon officials have said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is "not pleased" with the House's defense bill, and the Office of Management and Budget has said it would recommend that President Obama veto the bill.

Unlike the House defense bill's version, the offset for keeping the A-10 flying for another year would not come from war funding, Ayotte said.

Levin said the committee has found an offset for the delay from various other places in the Pentagon's proposed 2015 budget.

"I am pleased with it...It actually has an offset within the mark and I'm really appreciative of Sen. Levin's support, because it was really his staff that came up with the proposal, and he's been very supportive from the beginning," she said.

Ayotte said their proposal would also cost less than the House's, which was $635 million, "but it will be sufficient to ensure that the A-10 cannot be retired during the 2015 year."

"You know who is going to be happy? Our ground troops," Ayotte said. "Our ground troops are very happy that we're going to preserve the A-10, and I've been hearing from a lot of them, and this is important to them."

— This story was last updated at 4:52 p.m.