SENATORS BOND AND BOXER LEAD CALL FOR CONTINUED FUNDING OF HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL C-17 PROGRAM
Senators seek funds to procure 15 additional C-17s
U.S. Senators and Kit Bond (R-MO) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today announced that 17 of their Senate colleagues have signed onto their letter asking the Senate Appropriations Committee to include funding in the FY09 Supplemental Defense Appropriations Bill for the highly successful C-17 program.
"This short-sighted decision to shut down production of the C-17 - our nation's only large airlift line - is a dangerous gamble," said Senator Bond. "We can't afford to lose our competitive domestic industrial base, nor can we afford to lose the capability to transport safely our troops and equipment to anywhere in the world."
Senator Boxer said, "Congressional support for the C-17 program remains high because the aircraft has an impressive record of providing airlift support to our troops in combat zones and those working on humanitarian missions around the world. The House Appropriations Committee took an important first step by providing funds for an additional eight C-17s. But I hope the Senate will provide funding for additional aircraft and keep this successful program viable."
The Boxer-Bond letter was signed by 17 of the Senators' colleagues, including Senators Dianne Feinstein, Orrin Hatch, Christopher Dodd, Joseph Lieberman, Patty Murray, James M. Inhofe, Pat Roberts, Charles E. Schumer, Maria Cantwell, Saxby Chambliss, John Cornyn, Richard Burr, Johnny Isakson, Mel Martinez, Sherrod Brown, Mike Johanns, and Roland Burris.
The text of the Senators' letter follows:
Dear Chairman Inouye and Ranking Member Cochran:
Thank you for the leadership role you have played over the past several years in continuing to provide funding for the C-17. We are writing to respectfully request that the committee include funding to procure 15 additional C-17s in the FY 2009 Supplemental Defense Appropriations Bill.
Since the C-17 entered the Air Force inventory in 1993, it has proven to be an indispensable asset with an impressive record in supporting combat, humanitarian, and support missions around the world. Its ability to carry large payloads long distances and land on remote airfields has made it an ideal platform in counterinsurgency and humanitarian operations, which are missions commonly associated with irregular warfare. This would appear to make the C-17 highly compatible with Secretary Gates' efforts to rebalance the defense budget to account for the demands of irregular warfare while maintaining America's preeminence in dealing with conventional threats.
Originally designed as a strategic airlifter, the C-17 now also provides tactical airlift to less than ideal runways under tremendous stress and weight loads. Fleet-wide, C-17s have flown over 850,000 flight hours since 2002. Many are flown at 150-180% of their anticipated flight hours, yet consistently have functioned above readiness requirements. The diverse mission of the C-17 makes it indispensable to our national security; from directly evacuating wounded service members to Landstuhl, Germany and then to Walter Reed, dropping humanitarian aid into Afghanistan or airborne soldiers into Iraq, or replacing a dangerous ground convoy from Baghdad to Balad. Simply put, the C-17 has the proven reliability and capability to meet the needs of conventional warfare, irregular warfare and humanitarian assistance requirements.
We also strongly support continued funding for the C-17 in the forthcoming fiscal year 2009 Supplemental Defense Appropriations Bill because of concern that not doing so may irreversibly shut down production just short of the release of several studies that may indicate a need for additional C-17s. Those studies, including a long-overdue Mobility Capability Requirements Study, will give policy makers important insight into future strategic and tactical airlift needs. The studies will also take into account previously unforeseen needs that will largely dictate the demand for airlift in the future.
We cannot ignore the fact that the C-17 is the last remaining strategic airlift production line in the nation, and shutting down this line prematurely may prove costly for the American taxpayer. Across the United States, 30,000 people from 43 states go to work each day in support of the production of the C-17. Both the Air Force and the contractor have indicated that restarting a closed production line is prohibitively expensive.
Additionally, threats to national interests have changed in the past decade, and the size and weight of our military equipment has grown in response. The changes in our military equipment have significantly increased airlift requirements. As the Air Force has stated "newer and more flexible airlift aircraft are needed to meet potential armed contingencies, peacekeeping or humanitarian missions worldwide. The C-17 is capable of meeting today's demanding airlift missions."
As the military increases operations in Afghanistan, increases the end-strength of the Army and Marines Corps, stands up U.S. Africa Command, and eventually redeploys hundreds of thousands of troops and millions of tons of equipment out of Iraq and Afghanistan, the C-17 unquestionably will play an important role in personnel and materiel movement for years to come.
We also want to highlight the potential market in foreign sales that may be lost if the production line is shut down. The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Qatar and the Strategic Airlift Capability, a consortium of European nations, have already purchased planes and have indicated interest for future buys. Negotiations are on-going with the United Arab Emirates for the purchase of C-17s. Other potential markets exist with multiple countries in the Middle East and Far East. Funding in the FY 2009 Supplemental will ensure that the line stays open so that these interested countries can complete negotiations and continue the C-17 program into the future.
Thank you for your consideration of this important request.