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​An A-10 Thunderbolt II strafes during the 2014 Hawgsmoke Competition at Barry M. Goldwater Range Two in Tucson, Ariz., July 10, 2014. Air Force photo by A1C Sivan Veazie.

The latest version of the Fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill continues to block the Air Force’s request to divest its A-10 fleet, though some concessions were included in the House and Senate Armed Services Committees’ agreement. Though A-10 manning levels cannot be significantly changed in 2015, the agreement allows the Air Force to move up to 36 operational A-10s currently in the active component to either back up flying status or back up inventory status for the duration of 2015. That means the Air Force will not assign any personnel to the aircraft, but it will have to maintain the aircraft. However, this is permissible only after certifying to Congress that the move is needed to avoid significantly degrading the readiness of the fleet or significantly delaying the fielding of the F-35.  The Defense Secretary will also be required to certify to Congress that he has reviewed an independent assessment by the Director of the Office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation on alternative ways to maintain the A-10 and field the Joint Strike Fighter in 2015. Additionally, the bill directs the Comptroller General to conduct a study of aircraft used in close air support missions. If shelving the A-10s is allowed, any money freed up from operating the A-10 fleet will be redirected to “other higher priority Department of Defense programs,” states the agreement.