The C-17 Response:

The Air Force is taking a “preliminary” look at replacing some portion of the C-5 fleet with C-17s, service Secretary Michael Wynne wrote to three Senators recently. Wynne was responding on behalf of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was asked in July by the three lawmakers—Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)—to explain why Boeing suddenly decided to resume production of long-lead items for the C-17, since the Air Force has stated no requirement for additional aircraft. Wynne replied in a letter dated Aug. 22 that the strategic airlift program of record—190 C-17s and 111 C-5s—“has sufficient capability to support the defense strategy and is reflected in the 2008 President’s budget.” However, Wynne added that the Pentagon will embark on a new mobility requirements study in early 2008, and “recently, Air Mobility Command has been reviewing the practicality of replacing a portion of the C-5 fleet with C-17s.” He emphasized that it’s only a “preliminary” review, and USAF hasn’t reached any conclusions about changing the lift mix. He assured the Senators that the Air Force would follow established acquisition and budgeting rules “to ensure that our defense investment priorities are fully vetted with OSD and Congress.” Wynne also said he’s aware of no commitments made to Boeing, adding, “In fact, the contractor has publicly stated that the decision to extend certain long-lead suppliers was entirely their own.”