Procurement: Porking the C-130J

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August 18, 2006: The group " Citizens Against Government Waste" released their 2006 Pig Book, and cited the proposal to spend $591 million for eight C-130J cargo planes in Fiscal Year 2006 as an example of pork. The group claimed that the Defense Department did not want the aircraft. However, as is the case when a special -interest group pushing for an agenda, CAGW has omitted some facts that would tend to refute their claims. In this case, the alleged pork is not only very useful, but it lets DOD (department of Defense) get good use out of its money - and saves a lot of time, money, capabilities, and hassle down the road.
It is true that the initial Fiscal Year 2006 defense budget cancelled the C-130J. However, in May, 2005, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld changed his mind, and submitted a request to continue production. This was after the Air Force grounded nearly 100 C-130Es because their wings were found to suffer "severe fatigue." At least a dozen of those planes, which first entered service in 1962. Last month, the Department of Defense ordered four more C-130Js as part of a supplemental bill - in addition to a Fiscal Year 2007 request for nine more planes. The Air Force requests indicate that the C-130J is a wanted airplane. Aircrews have been enthusiastic about the new plane.
Its performance also supports Rumsfeld's change of heart. The C-130J has greater range (2962 kilometers to 2314 for the C-130E), a higher ceiling (28,000 feet to 19,000 feet), a better top speed (671 kilometers per hour to 555), and requires fewer aircrew (three as opposed to five). The stretched version of the C-130J, known as the C-130J-30 or CC-130J, added even more range (3889 kilometers) and a larger payload (44,500 pounds) while suffering slight decreases in speed and operational ceiling.
In essence, the C-130J is not pork, as CAGW claims. Instead, it is a very capable transport aircraft that the Air Force wants. This is one reason why this spending is good for the country. The other reason is that it kept the production line open. When a production line shuts down, a number of things happen. The workers who run the line are either re-assigned or they retire. Companies that once provided parts for the production line re-tool or go out of business. The equipment is often shifted to another production line, or it is destroyed (as Boeing did with the MD-11 production line). When a production line goes away, restoring it is difficult at best, and often an impossible task.
CAGW's misleading listing of the C-130J spending as pork does both the Air Force and the taxpayers a disservice. The Air Force faces a problem in that it has a number of cargo aircraft that are not getting any younger. Yet replacing old aircraft is expensive, and that makes aircraft procurement a target for budget hawks, who in this case are being penny-wise, but pound-foolish. - Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

 


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