WATCH: Senator Mark Kelly Discusses Importance of A-10 with Nominee for Secretary of the Air Force

Yesterday, Arizona Senator Mark Kelly raised key economic and defense priorities during the Senate Armed Services nomination hearing for chief positions in the Department of Defense. Senator Kelly asked Mr. Frank Kendall III, nominee to be Secretary of the Air Force, about the unmatched ability of the A-10 to perform close air support missions, and asked Ms. Heidi Shyu, nominee for Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, about the importance of strengthening American leadership in semiconductor manufacturing.

Last December, Senator Kelly voted to pass the bipartisan defense bill that protects the A-10, makes key investments in Arizona military bases, and advances elements of the Senator’s key proposals in the CHIPS for America Act, which would create significant federal initiatives for semiconductor manufacturing and help bring jobs to Arizona.

Since his vote reauthorizing the NDAA, Senator Kelly has been working with Republicans and Democrats to protect the A-10 Warthog and ensure it keeps playing a role in the Air Force’s close air support missions. Last month, the Senator introduced a bipartisan A-10 Resolution in the Senate, and wrote to Acting Secretary John Roth expressing continued support for the A-10 Warthog and requesting more transparency regarding the future of the aircraft.

Recently, Senator Kelly has been working with Republicans and Democrats and made progress towards funding the CHIPS for America Act, which will restore American leadership in semiconductor manufacturing. The Senate has begun consideration of The United States Innovation and Competition Act, legislation in which Kelly worked to include $52 billion to fund CHIPS for America Act programs including grant incentives for construction or expansion of semiconductor fabrication plants, research and development programs for semiconductors, and cooperation with allies on semiconductor policy.

You can read a transcript of Senator Kelly’s exchange below. Watch his full remarks HERE.

[00:06]: “Thank you Mr. Chairman and thank you to all our witnesses for being here today. I want to start with Mr. Kendall. We spoke last week about your views about the future of the air force. For the past four decades the A-10 Warthog has been an invaluable close air support asset  to America’s troops on the ground. Its capabilities are unmatched and its cost effectiveness can’t be beaten. As a former test pilot and combat pilot and having flown close air support missions myself I don’t see how the F-35 or F-16 is going to be effective in this mission flying low under cloud cover, delivering ordinance on an enemy’s position while visually identifying where our guys are on the ground and ensuring we keep them safe, being able to turn around the aircraft very quickly and getting it back into the fight. Mr. Kendall, how would you assess the ability of other fighter aircraft to meet these requirements and conduct close air support missions?” 

[1:14]: “Well Senator, as we discussed. The A-10 is a very special airplane. It was designed specifically for the close air support mission. I’m a former army officer. I’ve talked to a lot of army officers, particularly infantrymen, and if they’re going to get some help in the air, they want it to be an A-10. It’s a formidable aircraft, particularly in that missions, and particularly suppressing enemy fire. My son was an infantryman in Iraq, and I’m quite sure that if he needed some support, he would have preferred to see the A-10 show up, so I’m a proponent of the airplane just because of my background. There are hard trades that have to be made – I think there’s a question about how much inventory can be kept in the A-10. A lot of them have been re-winged to extend their life, but they provide a unique capability, and I would be reluctant to see them come out of the inventory entirely.” 

[2:00]: “Thank you and I think it’s important that we remember this isn’t hypothetical. The consequences of getting this wrong, of being less effective in this mission — real consequences. I mean it’s the difference of life and death for our soldiers and our special operators on the ground. So you’ve gotten feedback, I have as well, from our troops on the ground with respect to the A-10 and I’ve flown an airplane that was a great all weather attack airplane, it did not do the CAS (close air support) mission very well, so I appreciate your comments here, and you know I think it’s critical to our national security to maintain and make sure that we sustain the entirety of the current fleet of this very cost effective and combat proven aircraft for the us air force. I look forward to working with you on this issue.” 

[2:55]: “Same here, Senator.”

[2:58]: “Got a couple more minutes. Ms. Shyu: good to speak with you again, enjoyed our conversation last week. I know from our past discussions that you share my views of the imperative to bring semiconductors and manufacturing capabilities back to  our country. Hard to believe that today U.S. scientists and industry have to look to China to test advanced capabilities of semiconductors. It’s clear investing in U.S. research and manufacturing capability today is going to lead to dividends for our national security in the long term. That’s why I’m working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure we fund these efforts, critical element of this work is the national network for microelectronics R&D, and it was authorized in last years’ defense bill, the network would simultaneously leverage the advanced research capabilities of universities across the country, and it would support American innovation and alleviate supply chain security concerns in today’s market. Ms. Shyu, can you speak to why this reshoring is so critical to our security and if confirmed can you commit to working with me to implement the microelectronics network?” 

[4:20]: “Senator Kelly, I absolutely believe that reshoring our microelectronics is critical. There are so many microelectronic components across all our weapon systems as well as in the commercial industry. I’m fully supporting Congress’ efforts in terms of finding funding to reshore this capability. I’m more than happy to work with your office. Once I get a chance to dive into more of those details of the microelectronic initiatives, I’ll be happy to come back and chat with you.” 

[5:00]: “Thank you. And thank you Mr. Chairman. And just to reiterate, I believe these investments are critical to our long term security and we should support rapid implementation in this year’s NDAA. Thank you.”