Parochialism and Pork Barrel Politics: Why New C-27J Cargo Planes Will Gather Dust in Military Boneyards

2 years ago

The new C-27J, expensive and totally unnecessary (Urby2004/wikicommons).

Since 2007, the US Air Force has spent $567 million to purchase 21 new C-27J cargo planes. With 16 completed and delivered at the end of September, more than a dozen have already been decommissioned and sent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tuscon, AZ, as reported by the Dayton Daily News.

Five more are to be completed by April 2014, and the Air Force is obliged to purchase them because of planned budgeting despite objections from the Pentagon to cut the program. The additional five are planned to be flown immediately to an aircraft boneyard in Tuscon, home of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group.

Although funds for the planes were originally budgeted, Congress decided curb the program due to sequestration last year, as advised by the Pentagon. At the start of the contract,the Air Force was slated to receive 38 planes, but now the government is halting the order at 21. The sequester will cut the military budget by a trillion dollars over the next nine years. These cuts would return the military budget to within 2006- 2007 spending.

Originally designed with special take off capabilities to accommodate less developed runways, the C-27J was supposed to serve a niche purpose. However, looking at projected costs, the military decided that the C-130, which is already in service, could not only do the same job adequately, but also for much cheaper. The C-27J would cost $308 million per plane over the next 25 years, while the C-130 would cost $213 million.

But why even bother to continue with the production of the last five planes? As reported, “They are too near completion for a termination to be cost effective and other government agencies have requested the aircraft,” said Daryl Meyer, spokesperson for the Air Force.

Ohio senators were also quick to defend the program, citing the 800 jobs at the Mansfield Air National Guard Base as well as national and homeland security. Back in 2011, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and six other senators asked the military to buy 42 of the aircraft. In 2012, Brown and Senator Rob Portman both worked to keep the program, citing its “critical importance.” Ohio legislators have been overly vocal in the keeping these contracts, a blatant sign of their pork-barrel politics. Not only have Ohio lawmakers protected the C-27J program, but also the continuation of production and purchasing of M-1 Abrams Tanks and the Global Hawk Drone, both linked to Ohio jobs.

Following the money trail also reveals narrow-minded politics. The planes are manufactured by Alenia North America — part of the Italian company Finmeccanica Inc. — and contracted by L-3 Communications. Both groups have spent millions lobbying through their PACs, and contributed over a million dollars to the last election alone, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. All of this reinforces the reality  that lawmakers and government officials are easily persuaded to act by campaign contributions and to keep military jobs secure.

Despite the disastrous situation, moving the planes to the aircraft boneyard is an opportunity to recoup some of the losses. The 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group maintains planes for the government to sell to other countries. The boneyard is one of the few profitable parts of the military, making $11 for every $1 of funding.

Several countries are interested in buying the aircraft, notably Austrailia. Though the president of Alenia has stated that if the US resells the C-27J’s, Alenia will not provide assistance or parts for its upkeep, a move designed to cut monetary losses accrued by the company.

Besides obvious objections to the high cost of the project, its another reminder of the government spending enormous amounts of taxpayer money to support contracts and businesses that help a select few Americans — a fine example of parochialism and the continuation of the Military Industrial Complex in the United States.

RYOT NOTE: The Brookings Institution is one of the oldest think tanks in the United States. They work on a variety of reform including attempts to limit military spending. Click on the gray box alongside this story to learn more and Become the News!

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