Army Cedes “Last Tactical Mile”

In comments to reporters May 12, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey said that the capability to resupply soldiers at forward locations via airlift is still valid but soldiers “do not have to fly the planes.” Last year, the Office of the Secretary of Defense sided with the Army in a brief turf war with the Air Force over this “last tactical mile” supply mission. However, in the Fiscal 2010 defense budget proposal, OSD cut the planned buy of 78 C-27 Joint Cargo Aircraft down to 38 and shifted the entire program to the Air Force. Casey also told the reporters, according to a report in The Hill, that flying fixed-wing aircraft, presumably like the elderly C-23s that the C-27s were to replace, “is not our core competency.” National Guard officials already are concerned that Army Guard units that fly the C-23s, both for national security and state missions, are going to be left without aircraft, since the C-23s may last another five years at best. A larger concern, according to Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt III, Air National Guard director, is that OSD cut the number of C-27s. He told lawmakers earlier this month that the “color of service flying the airplane” matters less than filling the requirement, which currently is set at 78 aircraft. There is also fear that some Air Guard units that banked on getting the JCA aircraft to replace flying missions lost to BRAC 2005 will now not receive the new intratheater airlifter. For example, Ohio’s Congressional delegation has sent letters to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, citing their concerns about the Air Guard’s 179th Airlift Wing, reports the Mansfield News Journal.