GOP Rep. [crscore]Martha McSally[/crscore] thinks the Air Force should spend less time playing the tuba and more time fixing the planes that keep soldiers alive.
“We have hundreds of people playing the tuba and clarinet,” McSally said at a House Committee on Armed Services hearing Tuesday, in response to claims from Air Force officials that the service needs to retire the A-10 due to lack of manpower.
“If we really had a manning crisis, from my perspective, we would really tell people to put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or a gun,” McSally added. “But we’re not at that place, and I’m just concerned over these conflicting statements,” Air Force Times reports.
The Air Force allocates about 20 officers and 540 airmen to its band programs.
McSally is a major proponent of keeping the A-10, especially given how useful the aircraft is against Islamic State. It enjoys wide support among troops and members of Congress, although the service desperately wants to get rid of the platform in favor of repurposing resources to the F-35.
A-10 advocates have pointed out the F-35 can’t possibly replace the close-air support capabilities of the A-10, which officials are now starting to grudgingly acknowledge.
Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted at the hearing “there needs to be a replacement for the A-10 before it goes away.”
The reason this issue is at the forefront again is because of misunderstood comments from the defense secretary. Ash Carter appeared to indicate the Air Force would not begin divestment of the jet until 2022, but now officials have sped that number up to as early as fiscal year 2018, when the service will start retiring 49 A-10s. Another 49 jets will be retired in fiscal year 2019, 64 in fiscal year 2020 and 96 in fiscal year 2021.
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