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WASHINGTON House appropriators killed an amendment Tuesday that would have kept alive the Air Force's A-10 fleet, becoming the first defense panel to endorse the service's cost-cutting plan.

The House Appropriations Committee broke with the House and Senate Armed Services committees, which last month used budgetary cuts from elsewhere in the Pentagon's budget to keep the A-10s flying for one more year.

This would be a huge blow to Gowen Field, which employs around 1,000 people who work with the fighter planes.

The amendment to keep the A-10, offered by Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., was shot down via a show of hands, with 13 members voting for it and 23 voting to kill it.

Idaho Republican Congressman Mike Simpson voted in favor of the amendment.

I certainly understand the Air Force's goal to, challenges they have to reduce budgets that we have. And I strongly support their efforts to reduce spending and cut waste within the department. However, it concerns me that the short-sided decision by divestment in the A-10, could likely bring about significant costs in the future, said Simpson.

The amendment would have transferred from other parts of the Air Force's operations and maintenance account $339.3 million for sustainment of A-10 aircraft operations.

Panel members voiced support for the amendment despite the air service's wishes to retire the aging fleet to save money, arguing no other aircraft can perform the close-air support mission like the A-10s, sometimes nicknamed Warthogs.

Defense subcommittee Chairman Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., however, warned if the panel backed the amendment, the Air Force next year would propose cutting other fleets like its B-2 bomber or F-16 fighter or retiring them completely.

I've spoken to men and women who operate A-10 at the Idaho National Guard base at Gowen Field in Boise Idaho. And I do think it's a mistake for the Air Force to retire this aircraft without an appropriate replacement, said Simpson. And everyone I talk to says the F-16 can't actually do the ground support that the A-10 does.

Frelinghuysen said retiring the A-10s would save billions, not millions.

Defense subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., said Air Force leaders have said the A-10 would not be among their priorities if the service suddenly got more funding.
He also told his colleagues we are the Appropriations Committee, we have to pay for things, suggesting the proposed offset was not budgetarily sound.

But Kingston and others shot back that the A-10's per-hour operational costs are lower than any other aircraft that can conduct the close-air support mission.

If we're saving money, why would we eliminate the least expensive aircraft to run? Kingston asked.

He also noted the A-10's sortie rate in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying: This is not something that's yesterday's aircraft.

About 100 workers at Macon's Boeing plant make wings for the A-10.

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