April 29, 2015

Moulton Offers NDAA Amendment to Protect Ground Troops, Preserve 100 A-10s

Washington, D.C. - Today, Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA) offered an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 that would have preserved 100 A-10 aircraft and redirected funds to unfunded requirements requested by the Department of Defense. Moulton’s remarks in support of his amendment as delivered are below. Click here to see a video of his speech.

My amendment does three things. First, it keeps an inventory of over 100 A-10s. Second, it shifts the highly unusual preloaded offset for excess A-10s to purchase DOD identified unfunded requirements to support our frontline troops. Third, it ensures the greatest military effectiveness by better equipping our ground troops while freeing up resources the Air Force needs.

I respect Representative McSally, for her service both flying A-10s and now serving as my colleague on the Armed Services Committee. But I strongly disagree with her sense of priorities for our troops on the ground.

I speak as an infantry combat veteran of the Iraq War. My commitment to troops on the ground is unwavering. I also have great appreciation for the record of the A-10 and its pilots supporting troops in combat. I wouldn’t be alive today if it not for close air support. But what you never hear from the appeals of the A-10 community is what the tradeoffs are, and they are big. 

First, there is the $682 million the committee had to carve out of this year’s DOD budget. Over four years, the cost to keep all A-10s reaches more than $4 billion. My substitute amendment is not about whether or not the A-10 is a good aircraft for its mission or whether we may want to keep some in the inventory. It is a good plane, and having some number of them may be a good idea. But it is not the only aircraft that does air support, and it is definitely not the only thing our military needs.

Instead, my substitute amendment is about whether or not forcing the Air Force to keep all its current A-10s in FY16 is the best way to use $682 million. I don’t believe it is. Let me briefly describe the substitute amendment in front of members and how it better supports our frontline troops.

This amendment authorizes the Air Force to carry out its plan for FY16 to retire up to 164 A-10 aircraft out of a total fleet of 283. It also asks for a report from the Air Force on how it can best use its 119 remaining A-10s to provide ground support to our troops in the future. Most importantly, it shifts those unrequested funds to critical unfunded requirements that our frontline infantry troops need.

First, it adds $75 million for counter-IED equipment for the Marine Corps. This funding will provide 500 new counter-IED systems to meet the latest threats. As members know, IEDs were the number one killer of Americans in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They have literally killed thousands of young Americans, not six, thousands - far more than will die from the rare scenarios where only an A-10 can provide close air support.

Second, my amendment adds $160 million for 8 additional MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial systems, which are in great demand and are DOD’s weapon of choice in global counterterrorism operations.

It also invests in TOW bunker busting missiles, which are currently at just 21% inventory in the Marine Corps, and it invests in critical upgrades to F-16s and C-130s that are also unfunded in the current mark.

At every point in our history, in both good budget times and bad, we are charged on this committee with making tough budgetary decisions. While we consider diverting funds to the A-10, China and Russia are investing in aircraft that present very real challenges to our most advanced F-22s and F-35s and could easily take out a pack of A-10s.

Now you can always construct a scenario, and find a war hero to represent it, where only a certain weapons system is the one that works. But in truth, there are very few combat scenarios where the mission of the A-10 cannot be covered by other, more advanced aircraft in our Air Force – more maneuverable helicopters close to the ground and faster moving jets that can both defend themselves against enemy aircraft and provide accurate fire to troops in combat. Indeed, the Marine Corps provides some of the best air support in the world without a single A-10. There are also plenty of scenarios where a slow moving airplane is more vulnerable or less effective. An A-10 is no good at all if it is shot down by a now common shoulder-launched missile.

I urge members to support my substitute amendment. It does not retire all the A-10 aircraft we have, and every dollar affected by my amendment moves funds from a program the Air Force hasn’t requested, to unfunded requirements our war fighters need.

And in case anyone wants to question my own motives here, the biggest employer in the biggest city in my district makes the A-10 engine and briefed me on Monday that they stand to gain significantly from reinvestment in the aircraft. But this is not and should not be about district politics. This is about our shared national security and the lives of the young Americans whom we ask to defend it.