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A bipartisan, bicameral group of 33 lawmakers told Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin Dempsey that they would "oppose any effort" by the Air Force to divest the A-10 fleet. "It is essential that the Air Force not take any additional steps toward divestment," wrote the group, led by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Rep. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.) in a Nov. 13 letter to them. The Air Force has been examining the option of eliminating the A-10 fleet in Fiscal 2015 as a cost-savings move. The lawmakers, however, argued that this move would create a close air support capability gap that would "reduce Air Force combat power and unnecessarily endanger our service members in future conflicts." While conceding that the Air Force faces "significant budget pressure and uncertainty," they told Hagel and Dempsey that an A-10 cut would be "unconscionable," since this would run counter to Congress' belief that the aircraft's past performance, low operations costs, and unique capability warrant its preservation. Ayotte has been a leading voice in preserving the A-10 fleet; for several weeks, she had a hold on the nomination of Deborah James to be Air Force Secretary over this matter. (See also Barber release.)