OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Senate works to save A-10

The Topline: 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 Carl Levin (D-Mich.).

The amendment will be introduced during Levin's markup of the fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill, which the committee is planning to consider on Wednesday during a closed-door 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 measure will be sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and co-sponsored by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), one of the A-10's fiercest champions in the Senate.

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

Levin said the committee has found an offset to pay for the delay from other sources in the Pentagon's 2015 budget. 

"I am pleased with it,” said Ayotte. “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.”

Ayotte said their proposal would also cost less than the House figure, which was $635 million.

“But it will be sufficient to ensure that the A-10 cannot be retired during the 2015 year," she added. 

"You know who is going to be happy? Our ground troops," Ayotte continued. "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."

ENLIST unfolds. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday signaled there could be a up and down vote on legislation that would grant green cards to young illegal immigrants who serve in the military.

Boehner has come under increased pressure to allow a vote on a measure being offered by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), dubbed the ENLIST Act, as part of the annual defense authorization bill.

The speaker said the policy bill, which the full House is set to take up on Wednesday, is an “inappropriate” vehicle to use for the measure but held the door open for another vote.

“There have been discussions about that, but no decisions,” Boehner said.

“That’s not a discussion we have had yet but it certainly would be a willing compromise,” Denham told reporters after a press conference. “I want a date certain,” he said of a vote.

The California lawmaker also testified late Tuesday afternoon before the House Rules Committee on the measure. The panel is set to vote tonight on if the proposal can be brought up during the full House debate, though its prospects are not considered good.

“I wish the entire committee a good night,” Denham said before he left the hearing room.

Shinseki stops by. Beleaguered Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel paid a quiet visit to Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

The pair met with House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and ranking member Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) about compatibility problems between DOD and VA electronic medical records.

The secretaries did not stop by the House Veterans Affairs or the Armed Services panels.

Senate dumps BRAC. Senators on the Armed Services Committee plan to reject a new round of military base closures in its 2015 budget, according to leaders of the panel’s subcommittee on military readiness and management.

“The readiness mark does not authorize another [base realignment and closure] round,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, the subcommittee’s ranking member. “I know that the chair and I are on the exact same page on this.” 

The Pentagon proposed a new round of base closures in its 2015 defense budget request. The House Armed Services Committee, which passed its version of the defense policy bill earlier this month, also rejected a new round of base closures. 

Ayotte said government studies have shown that the 2005 BRAC round cost $35 billion, instead of the estimated $21 million. 

“Now is not the time to spend millions of upfront dollars on another BRAC round, especially as DOD has been forced to ground combat aircraft, cancel ship deployments and furlough workers,” she said. 

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