There's More to the C-17 Story

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Oct. 16 front-page article "Pentagon Submits Budget, and Services Ask for More," didn't adequately explain why Congress plans to procure more C-17 transport aircraft. It's not an attempt to resurrect a "pet project."

In the fiscal 2004 defense bill, parochial interests related to C-5 transport planes delayed the retirement of 40-year-old aircraft until 2008, effectively "BRAC-proofing" those planes' bases but likely damaging airlift capability indefinitely.

While that hindered the Air Force's management of aircraft, the Bush administration also isn't realistically planning for future airlift requirements. It has ignored the 2004 declarations of airlift expert Gen. John W. Handy that we need at least 222 C-17s as well as recent statements by retired general Barry R. McCaffrey calling for far more C-17s than the 190 already purchased.

The Post article indicated that military officials, including Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne, strongly prefer cleaner and quieter C-17s to older and unreliable C-5s.

The administration and Congress must act. C-5 modernization is 50 percent over-budget: $17 billion will buy the capability of only 10 aircraft, far more than the same capability from C-17s would cost. Mr. Wynne must complete the Nunn-McCurdy spending review and decide if C-5 modernization should be curtailed. Congress should fund additional C-17s before the assembly line closes and lift restrictions on retiring C-5s.

The Air Force -- not Congress -- should decide when to retire old aircraft.


U.S. Representative (R-N.J.)


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