Senate panel moves to save A-10 despite DOD

The Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee unveiled a $489.6 billion spending bill on Tuesday that bucks Pentagon proposals and prevents the retirement of the Air Force's A-10 fleet.

"Chairmen not only have to evaluate the merits, they have to evaluate political realities," Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters. "I think the A-10 is a great aircraft. There are those that disagree in the Pentagon. The sentiment among the members is very strong when it comes to the A-10."

Also included in the funding measure are a Pentagon-led program to train and equip vetted Syrian opposition rebels and $621.6 million for Israeli missile defense.

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The bill proposes $338 million to maintain the A-10 fleet and provides $848.7 million to refuel the Navy aircraft carrier USS George Washington.

The bill would also provide a 1 percent pay raise for military and civilian personnel and restore $200 million to maintain military commissary operations.

It also adds money for looking for an alternative to a Russian-made rocket engine currently used by the Air Force.

To pay for the programs, the bill proposed 517 specific cuts to programs for $11.7 billion in savings.

Some of the other significant funding proposals include: $1.9 billion for readiness shortfalls; $80 million for the Littoral Combat Ship program; $31 billion for the full E-3 AWACs radar aircraft fleet; $1.3 billion for 12 EA-18G Growlers; $125 million for additional competitive space launch; $293 million for various Army ground vehicles; and full procurement of 34 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

Committee members especially touted funding for Israeli missile defense system Iron Dome, at $351 million.

The bill also provides $59.7 billion for overseas contingency funds, including $2.9 billion for cooperative counterterrorism programs, and $1 billion for the president's European Reassurance Initiative.

The bill retains its previous language on Guantanamo Bay detainee transfer restrictions, but would allow final 2015 National Defense Authorization Act bill language to supersede it.

"It sets clear priorities, removes $11.7 billion in unnecessary funding and reinvests those funds where they are needed the most," Durbin said. "It also sets out to maintain the U.S. defense industrial base for the long term."