The C-17 Requirement Goal Posts

At Wednesday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Air Force’s Fiscal 2009 budget proposal and unfunded requirements list, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman, asked why the service put 15 C-17s on the URL rather than in the baseline budget and questioned the number. He pointed out that US Transportation Command boss Air Force Gen. Norton Schwartz believes 205 airframes is sufficient and that Congress already had added eight, so to reach 205, USAF would only need another seven. The problem is, said Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley is that the requirements keep shifting, so in actuality the 205 number submitted in mid February is old. “Since then the goal post has moved on us a bit,” he said and added, “We continue to struggle with defining that requirement.” The Army and Marine Corps are swelling by some 92,000 personnel and the Army’s Future Combat Systems will have to go on C-17s and C-5s, Moseley pointed out. And, USAF expects a significant mobility requirement to develop for the new US Africa Command and foresees continued C-17 use in Iraq and Afghanistan to minimize the use of ground convoys. Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne explained that budgetary constraints, Congressional limits on retiring older C-5s, and the Quadrennial Defense Review-imposed cap on strategic airlifters left the service with no leg room. In fact, he said, “We were not well received with any increase in C-17.”