Senator Johnny Isakson weighed in on the military readiness debate on Monday following the release of a Government Accountability Office report that questioned the Department of Defense’s decision to retire the A-10 Thunderbolt II. The report found that the consequences of “premature divestment” have not been adequately studied by the Air Force and that it was unclear if the divestment would create “capacity or capability gaps.”
Here is an excerpt from Senator Isakson’s press release:
“The A-10 is an important mission at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga., and plays a crucial role in support of our national defense. The findings in this report validate what I have been arguing since the first announcement that the A-10 fleet would be divested. The close-air support provided by the A-10 is unmatched by any other aerial platform, and to divest of this aircraft without a fully operational alternative would put U.S. troops at increased risk in current and future conflicts.”
The DoD and the Air Force have been trying to retire the A-10 fleet since 2012 in order to transition resources to the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced in February that the A-10s would be around until at least 2022, but the Air Force might start whittling down the fleet as soon as 2018.
Apart from the effect of divestment on Moody Air Force Base, Senator Isakson’s chief concern is that the replacement fleet would not provide the same level of support for troops that the A-10 is giving to American soldiers in the fight against ISIL. The A-10 has proven itself to be battle-ready and is utilized heavily in Syria as it is the only U.S. plane that is specifically designed to provide air support for ground troops.
Senator Isakson’s comments come amid a larger debate on U.S. military readiness. Former General and CIA Director David Petraeus wrote an op-ed in early August where he argued that the military was in fact well prepared for current and future conflicts. American Enterprise Institute scholar Tom Donnelly criticized the Petraeus piece, saying that American forces are not quite up to the “two-war standard” that Iraq and Afghanistan required and that they certainly do not meet the “three-war standard” that might be appropriate given recent world events.
If you would rather skip the academic back-and-forth here is a video of the A-10 going brrrrtt. It might sway your opinion one way or the other.