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2 from Michigan champion the A-10 in Congress--and right now, they're winning

A10Thunderbolt.jpg
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If Congress has its way, it looks like the country’s fleet of A-10 warplanes will keep on flying for at least for another year.

The Obama Administration has repeatedly tried to retire the A-10 “Warthog,” an aircraft with origins in the Cold War era. The Defense Department says it’s now obsolete.

But that argument seems to be going nowhere, thanks to the A-10’s champions in Congress, including two key supporters from Michigan--Senator Carl Levin, and Congresswoman Candice Miller.

Miller’s Macomb County district is home to the Selfridge Air National Guard base, which has a fleet of 18 Thunderbolt II A-10 fighters. She argues the plane is still a key military asset.

Speaking on the House floor earlier this month, Miller, a Republican, said that support for the A-10 is “based on facts: the cost-effective nature of these aircraft, and the strong support of our soldiers, who depend on the close air support provided by the A-10.”

The House overwhelmingly passed a version of the country’s annual defense spending bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes $635 million in funding for the A-10.  

That bipartisan support carries over to the Senate, where Levin, a Democrat, is also working to protect the A-10’s future.

Levin chairs the powerful Senate armed services committee, and plays a key role in shaping the annual defense budget.

Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill last week, Levin said the committee has approved a bill that includes another reprieve for the A-10.

“We included funding to keep the A-10 aircraft, which are less costly and more capable than currently available alternatives, flying for another year at least,” Levin said.

The Senate draft version allocates $320 million for the aircraft. Levin said those costs would be offset by cuts to military personnel accounts.

Congress and the Obama Administration are on a collision course over military spending. The Defense Department wants to cut billions from the Pentagon budget through a variety of measures, including retiring aging aircraft like the A-10.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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