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Air Force pushes for more C-130Js

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By Roxana Tiron

Posted: 02/27/08 07:14 PM [ET]

Top Air Force leaders are pressing to extend the production of Lockheed

Martin’s C-130J aircraft beyond an expected closure in 2010.


The appeal comes as Air Force acquisition officials are still negotiating an

offer the defense contractor made last October to sell the military an

additional 120 C-130Js under a suggested multi-year contract worth more than

$6 billion.


“We must maintain and extend the existing production lines,” Gen. Michael

Moseley, the Air Force chief of staff, and Michael Wynne, the secretary of

the Air Force said in a prepared statement to the House Armed Services

Committee on Wednesday. “This aircraft represents America’s best technology

and capability.”


Separately, Wynne told reporters at the hearing that the Air Force is

“trying to make sure we have a need” for the number of C-130Js proposed by

Lockheed Martin.


The request was part of a broader budget justification presented by the Air

Force that was met with some skepticism from lawmakers, who say the top

officials are asking for items that are beyond the Pentagon’s initial budget



Lawmakers focused most of the hearing on other high-priced requests, such as

the C-17 cargo aircraft, the F-22 Raptor fighter jet and personnel costs.


The C-130J is not the only program that the Air Force and supporters in

Congress want to see extended beyond its imminent closure, setting up an

increased lobbying push this year to secure money for all the programs.

Among other aircraft on the Air Force’s wish list are Boeing’s C-17 cargo

aircraft and Lockheed’s F-22 Raptor fighter jet.


But the Air Force faced criticism from House lawmakers on Wednesday for

submitting almost $19 billion in unfunded requests to Congress, above the

2009 budget. Every year, military services submit a list of priorities to

Congress that did not receive the appropriate funding through the president’s

budget. The Air Force’s unfunded requests are double the size of the rest of

the military.


Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), a senior member of the Armed Services panel

and a strong supporter of the C-17, criticized the administration for not

funding the program in fiscal 2009 but leaving the Air Force to ask for more

aircraft in the unfunded requirements list, knowing that strong

congressional support would allocate funding for more C-17s. More C-17s are

also likely to be included in the upcoming supplemental spending bills.


She called the practice “a nasty little habit the administration has gotten

into.” Tauscher said that if Congress is able to fund just a few C-17s in

the defense bills, there aren’t the same cost savings as with a larger

quantity. No C-17s are funded as part of the fiscal 2009 budget request. The

Air Force is asking for 15 C-17s in its unfunded requirements list, with a

$3.9 billion price tag.


By the same token, the Air Force is asking for $576 million to buy eight

C-130Js. The Air Force, which also buys the C-130 aircraft for the Marine

Corps, requested funding for six Air Force planes and two Marine Corps

versions as well as procurement money to buy parts in advance for 14 Air

Force planes and two Marine Corps planes.


As The Hill first reported in October, Lockheed’s offer assumes the Air

Force and Marine Corps would buy 24 airplanes a year for five years.

International customers would purchase an additional six airplanes a year,

under Lockheed’s plan.


Lockheed currently builds about 12 C-130Js a year at a cost close to $60

million per plane for Air Force and Marine Corps versions.


Adjusted for inflation and prior to contract negotiations, Lockheed’s

proposal would cost $58.9 million to $63.7 million for three versions of the

plane between 2011 and 2015.


Moseley considered the offer “an attractive opportunity.”


But the Air Force and Lockheed Martin have also been pushing for more F-22

Raptors, whose production is slated to end after 2011. The Pentagon has only

green-lighted funding for a total of 183 fighters, but the Air Force

maintains it needs 381. Gordon England, Deputy Secretary of Defense, said

that four F-22s would be included in the 2009 war supplemental request. In

its unfunded wish list, the Air Force requested $600 million for four

Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor fighter jets.


While the Air Force’s fight to receive more money for its

multibillion-dollar weapons system is well-known among lawmakers, Rep. Ike

Skelton (D-Mo.), the committee’s chairman, criticized the Air Force for

playing with its personnel funding requests. The Air Force has been

undergoing some serious cuts in the number of its personnel. In the 2009

budget request, the service asked for funding for 316,000 personnel.

Currently the Air Force has about 328,000.


But in its unfunded request list the Air Force decided to ask for funding

for another 18,000 people, which would bring the number of Air Force

personnel to 334,000.


Skelton, visibly irked by the Air Force’s request, asked Wynne whether he

wanted to stick by the actual budget request or the unfunded list, which

would add about 6,000 people over the current number.


“You can’t have it both ways,” Skelton said. “Tell us what you want right



Wynne replied that his personal opinion was that the Air Force would prefer

to “hedge our bets” at 330,000 personnel. He explained that some of the

missions the Air Force thought it would reduce in fact have increased over

the years, such as joint tactical air controllers and joint logistics

liaisons, for example.

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