October 16, 2007

Another Reason to Hate the Air Force?

Don Rumsfeld had it all wrong. He famously said, "you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want." But that's not true: we all go to war with the military Boeing and other big defense contractors want us to have.

The Pentagon not only left new C-17 transport planes out of its budget request this year, it set aside half a billion dollars to halt the planes' production. Officially, the Air Force took the same view, swearing off any more C-17s, which cost $250 million apiece.

Behind the scenes, however, Air Force officials and Boeing, which makes the C-17, have been lobbying Congress to get more of the planes built, key lawmakers said. Seven House members have responded by inserting into the defense bill one of that chamber's largest single earmarks -- a demand that the Air Force give Boeing $2.42 billion for new C-17s.

The Air Force "made it very clear to me that they needed the C-17 and could use the aircraft," said Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), a fiscal conservative and one of the seven sponsors. "But we were going to have to stick it into the budget" because the Air Force was not going to allocate the money itself.

What are the worries, though? I'm sure we couldn't have used that $2.42 billion anywhere else. Abu Muqawama readers, should they be so inclined, can reach Rep. Akin's office at the following number: 202-225-2561. Give him a call and ask him how that fiscal conservativism's going.

Meanwhile, the lily-white U.S. Air Force procurement program goes rolling along.

Update: Charlie, here. This is eerily similar to how the Air Force builds airbases: housing first, runways last. That way when they run out of money, they march (fly?) back to Capitol Hill asking for additional funds. Because you can't have an airbase without runways, right? Here, the boys in blue know that the Army can't function without USAF lift support, so there will be plenty of pressure to fund the unsexy C-17s at the end of the day (whether USAF requests them or not). This way they get all their fun toys, and the army gets its lift. Just like how they get golf courses.