Senator lifts hold on Air Force secretary nominee Deborah Lee James

WASHINGTON - Sen. Kelly Ayotte has ended her hold on President Barack Obama's nominee for Air Force secretary, clearing the way for Senate confirmation of Deborah Lee James.

The New Hampshire Republican had blocked the nominee last month until she got answers about the fate of the military's A-10 attack aircraft.

Ayotte's office said in a statement Thursday that she had received responses from the Air Force to her 32 follow-up questions. She said she supported James' nomination and looked forward to working with her after her confirmation.

Ayotte indicated that she was still concerned about ensuring that the military provide close air support to ground forces, especially until the next generation F-35 is operational.

James is president of the Technical and Engineering Sector at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a major contractor with the federal government headquartered in McLean, Va. If confirmed by the Senate, James would succeed Michael Donley, who retired in June, and would become the second woman to hold the post. 

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