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U.S. Forces Korea Commander on Budget, A-10s

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fear that budget cuts are eroding U.S. technological superiority could boost efforts in Congress to increase military spending, remove the risk of sequestration and maybe keep the A-10 close air support aircraft around a little longer.

The fear could also fuel efforts to reform weapons development and procurement, and strengthen security around technological developments so other nations don’t get their hands on it, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the House Armed Services Committee chairman, said Wednesday.

Thornberry’s comments came at a hearing where Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, the U.S. Forces Korea commander, warned that technological advances by North Korea in nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles and cyber warfare are aimed at “what they consider to be some of our vulnerabilities, and through their development they are trying to close our dominance, basically.”

“We have to continue to develop our capabilities, to change our posture, our concepts, our employment in order to ensure that we maintain dominance,” Scaparrotti said. “Many of our adversaries are becoming more proficient in determining how to work inside of our capabilities, our intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, and also how to use deception and other means in order to limit that advantage that we have today.”

Scaparrotti also talked about the hot-button issue of the fate of the A-10 Thunderbolt close air support aircraft, which the Air Force plans to retire. He said he recognized the Air Force’s “difficulty in terms of the funding and the need with an aging aircraft with reduced funds to perhaps move away from that and go to a multirole ship,” but that as an infantryman “I have high regard for its ability to support ground troops. In the region I am in, particularly in mountainous region, it also can get low and it can turn in tight spots.”

 The A-10 has a reputation as a tank-killer, which could be a vital tool in a battle with North Korea. “I think the last thing that we want to be doing is relying on having to have a tank battle, right, in a day and age when we have the capabilities and we have the plans to be able to take out those capabilities from the air,” Scaparrotti said. “We certainly wouldn't want to roll back that capability and have our guys on the ground having to fight that we do actually possess the capability in the air to be doing that with the A-10.”