WASHINGTON — Nearly a third of the Senate has signed a letter in support of continuing to block the Air Force from changing any missions assigned to the Air National Guard.

The letter was sent last week to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees urging members to retain the freeze as they negotiate a final version of this year’s defense authorization bill. It was signed by 32 senators and 42 House members.

Sens. John Boozman, R-Ark., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., signed the letter to prevent the Air Force from unilaterally eliminating the A-10 mission at the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith.

"The country needs smart cuts, especially when it comes to our national defense, not massive random cuts that put our national security at risk," Boozman said in a statement Monday.

In February, the Air Force proposed $487 billion in spending reductions over the next decade that fell heavily on the Air National Guard. Among the proposed cuts was to eliminate the A-10 fighters in Fort Smith and replace them with a drone mission.

The Arkansas delegation and lawmakers from other affected states have asked for data and analysis to justify the proposed cuts. So far, they have not been satisfied with the Pentagon’s response.

The freeze was included in a Senate-approved defense authorization bill that was unanimously approved last week. Congress hopes to approve a final version before the end of the year.

Along with blocking any manpower changes, the lawmakers want an independent panel to work with the Air Force, governors and other interested parties to review the Air Force budget.

"An overwhelming majority of the Congress, representing both parties and both chambers, believes that these cuts need thorough and objective evaluation before they can either be passed into law or replaced," the lawmakers wrote.