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Ten senators, including Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), penned a letter to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James on Friday blasting the Air Force for what they called a “gradual backdoor divestment” of the A-10 fleet, which they said is “inconsistent with Congressional intent.” A-10 depot-level maintenance has dropped 40 percent from Fiscal 2014 to Fiscal 2015 from $79.4 million to $47.5 million, states the letter. “This dramatic cut in the Air Force’s support for A-10 depot-level maintenance has created an A-10 readiness deficit that endangers the Air Force’s ability to provide a sufficient number of deployable A-10s to meet combatant commander requirements,” according to the letter. Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a retired Air Force colonel and A-10 pilot, told reporters Friday that troops on the ground “will die” if the A-10 is retired. The plane has “the absolute best close air support capability that we have for very unique circumstances,” McSally said. McSally was able to get a prohibition on retiring the A-10 into the National Defense Authorization Act, but President Obama has vowed to veto the legislation over another budget issue. If the legislation does fail, the Air Force could potentially put another 18 A-10s into backup status, McSally said, but she hopes Air Force leaders have “gotten the message that the will of Congress is for them not to do that.”