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  • The Flimsy Rationale for Cutting the C-17 Program

    C-17 Jet

    On February 2nd, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Congress that the military needs no additional C-17 aircraft and that the production line should be shut down in 2011.  His testimony drew bipartisan criticism from several senators, including Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK).  Senator McCaskill protested “we keep hearing…this is something that the military doesn’t want.… Then I go over there [to Afghanistan and Iraq], and that’s not their attitude at all.”  Sen. Inhofe added that he believes America’s airlift capacity is in “dire straits,” and that it is a travesty America’s airmen are still flying old C-130E models, despite persistent engine troubles.

    Congress has so far resisted this Administration’s and previous attempts to terminate the C-17 program, arguing rightly that it is a vital platform with much-needed capabilities relevant to both today’s battlefields and humanitarian crisis response operations.  The aircraft is designed to deliver heavy cargo onto short and or semi-prepared runways.  This unique capability is crucial to current humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti, where airports have been severely damaged by the recent earthquake.  The lift capabilities of this aircraft have also added value in Afghanistan, which lacks sophisticated infrastructure.

    In Haiti, the Air Force has chosen, in the words of Senator McCaskill, to fly “the reliable, easy-to-land on short runways, load-’em-up, get-’em-out, cheaper-to-fly C-17” rather than the older C-5 plane.  Since the earthquake, over 40 C-17s have flown airport equipment, communications infrastructure, and humanitarian relief to the country.  It was the Air Force’s platform of choice in an environment with overcrowded and damaged runways where tactical as well as strategic capabilities were required.  Terminating the country’s only remaining wide-bodied cargo aircraft production line that supplies the carrier the Air Force trusts most in hazardous environments is imprudent and unwise.

    Secretary Gates stated during the same hearing that of 204,000 landings for strategic lift since 1997, only 4 percent have been at airfields that a C-5 could not access, and half of those were in Iraq.  Four percent may sound low, but it equates to over 8,000 landings that required the C-17 aircraft, or over 4,000 in Iraq alone. Senator McCaskill cautioned in response that just as many airstrips in Iraq were more suitable for landing the C-17.  The escalating situation in Afghanistan—which has even less developed infrastructure than Iraq does—may similarly be more suitable for C-17 landings, and the Air Force should be adequately resourced to respond to the nation’s demands with ease.

    Secretary Gates acknowledged that the time is approaching to retire the oldest C-5s.  If given the opportunity by Congress, the Pentagon will eagerly do so.  But without the ability to purchase more C-17 aircraft, the Air Force may face a dilemma: an increasing need for strategic airlift capabilities in precarious and constraining environments, and a decreasing number of ways to meet ongoing requirements.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    12 Responses to The Flimsy Rationale for Cutting the C-17 Program

    1. Steven, Michigan says:

      Seemingly well-researched

    2. Rick74 says:

      Okay. So, how many "new" C-5's are we going to build?

      There are many analyses over the past several years that address the lack of strategic airlift and sealift for our defense forces.

      Stopping all building programs – such as C-17 – only magnifies these problems.

      The good? Well, we will not have to worry about getting troops and equipment in place the next time a Saddam-like individual allows us six months or more to move in before we go to kick his butt (first Gulf War).

      Without maintaining, modernizing, and replacing our airlift and sealift, we will not be able to respond – in six years, nevermind in six months.

      So, we won't bother and will save the country the economic pain of national defense and fulfilling agreements and commitments to allies.

      How did a viable, analytically-based and rigorous QDR process reach this politically tone-deaf and antithetical conclusion?

    3. Jeff Bingaman, Michi says:

      It's a sad day when our government falls into the trap of lowering taxes and increasing government spending; especially when we're facing a projected $1.6 trillion debt. The end result can only be inflation, ruining the value of the USD, and then arbitrary termination of vital programs in order to save face with the American public.

      If we can all hop in our DeLorean's and race back to just over three weeks ago, we can listen in on the 2010 State of the Union Address where this news was first announced; and the decree that jobs "must be our number one focus in 2010" was hammered home to the people. If only it were the people he had in mind.

      If it's the people we truly have in mind then I pose these three simple questions:

      Why Mr. President, are we eliminating a program vital to our national defense?

      Why Mr. President, are we eliminating a program that the Senate voted 68-30 in favor of retaining in October?

      Why Mr. President, are we eliminating a program that employs over 30,000 people in 43 states, in a time where jobs are scarce and according to you "our number one priority"?

      The balls in your court sir.

    4. Stuart Harnden, Bedf says:

      It's a sad day when we try and cancel the C-17 program, and it's even sadder when we have to go to other countries to move our own equipment. We had to use the large Ruissian cargo plane to recover our P-3 aircraft that China wouldn't let us fly out after a mid-air collision with one of their fighters, and we had to use the Norwegians to bring the "Cole" home from Yemen after it was bombed and nearly sank.

      We should not be relying on foreign countries to move our military equipment, period.

    5. leigh aulper says:

      The situation is very simple. No matter how many flights are needed for a smaller runway, there are enought C-17's to fulfill those missions. For the bigger needs the C-5 is what is required. So, get the C-5 modernized and updated at a much cheaper price and we will have all the airlift capacity we need, end of story.

    6. Rich,Phila.Pa. says:

      Obama is cutting the C-17 program,no suprise.They already cut the F22 program.Our great country is going to end up with a second rate National Defense.Look what happened to the Once"Great Britian" with its strong military.Without a strong military you have a weak economy,not counting all of the uncontrolled spending.This is nothing new,the Dems have always been weak on National Defense,they have to have there social programs to buy votes from the folks who take everything for granted.I hate to say this but I think my father fought the Nazi in World War 2 for nothing.

    7. ChuckL,NV says:

      According to Australian researchers the F-35 is now nothing but a target drone. check these URLs

      http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-2010-01.html

      http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/russian-rapto

      You might also follow some of the Australian links for combat analysis of the F-22 and F-35 against the PAK FA ( Sukhoi T-50)

      It appears that it is not only jobs that are being killed by this administration. It looks like they have included National Security also.

    8. Don Kolhoff - Michig says:

      Matt,

      Great Article!

      You really hit the nail on the head! Haven't we been through this same situation before where we don't look beyond our noses and then throw the baby out with the bathwater!

    9. Alex, Washington DC says:

      I never thought about this issue the way you present it here, but you hit the nail straight on the head. We need a strong and modern military in order to fend off foreign advisaries, and to remain a strong and modern nation.

    10. Washington, DC says:

      Praise Jesus! June 29, 2010

      The Late Senator Robert Byrd's Family, Friends, and Associates

      Senator Robert Byrd has weathered many storms, encouraged and inspired many hearts/minds and we say thank You, Jesus. The late Senator Robert Byrd has fought a good fight for 51 years in Congress and he has finished his course and he has received his golden crown laid up for him in heaven and we say thank You, Jesus and AMEN!

      We, true Christians can hear Senator Robert Byrd saying in his spirit – I came into office when American Government Laws were founded and established on Christian Principles (Holy Bible – Blue Laws – Holy Ten Commandments). Therefore, we true Christians can hear Senator Robert Byrd saying in his spirit – Jesus Christ never change for Jesus is the same, today, yesterday, and forever more. (Heb. 13:8) – We can hear Senator Byrd saying in his spirit I have and want to leave the best inheritance, a committed Christian lifestyle to all my family, friends, associates, President Obama, Congressmen/women (Republicans and Democrats), District and Federal Government employees in Jesus Precious Name to pick up and follow because that is the only way America Government will succeed over sin, satan, sickness, and diseases for only what we do for Christ will last on earth and throughout eternity.

      We pray all will rejoice and celebrate with glorious memories in Christ Jesus for Senator Byrd who has entered his eternal destination. We thank the Holy Godhead/Jesus for loaning Senator Byrd to America and American Government (92/51 years). AMEN!

      Love always,

      True Christians

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    12. news says:

      As soon as I originally left a comment I clicked the Notify me whenever new comments are added checkbox and currently every time a comment is added I receive 4 email messages with the exact same comment.

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