November 10, 2005

Senate sticks with Boeing’s C-17 transport

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate approved a measure
Thursday that would authorize the purchase of up to 42 more
Boeing Co. C-17 transport aircraft despite a Pentagon plan to
buy none beyond the 180 currently projected.

Chicago-based Boeing hailed the 89-8 vote on an amendment
to the fiscal 2006 defense authorization bill sponsored by
Sens. James Talent, a Missouri Republican, and Joseph
Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat.

"We sincerely appreciate the leadership of Senators Talent
and Lieberman on this critical issue and the strong bipartisan
support it received from the U.S. Senate," said Douglas
Kennett, a Boeing spokesman. The Senate move would have to be
meshed with the House of Representatives' version of the bill,
which contains no such provision.

The Project on Government Oversight, an independent
watchdog that advocates greater federal government
accountability, deplored the action as a corporate handout that
would force the military to buy a weapon it does not need.

"Congress is looking out for the defense industry, but not
the needs of our military," said Eric Miller, a senior
investigator for the Washington-based group.

The C-17, the chief air transport used to deploy and
sustain U.S. forces abroad, has delivered 70 percent of the
cargo airlifted into Iraq, Talent said in a statement.

Talent, chairman of the Senate Armed Services subcommittee
on seapower that oversees the C-17 program, said the amendment
would make sure the United States had the airlift capability it

The Defense Department has briefed Congress on its draft
plan to stop C-17 production, Talent said. But he said the
Pentagon's report had been criticized for contradicting a
"long-standing" Air Force position on a need for more C-17s and
a failure "to consider key factors related to airlift needs."

The Air Force is doing work that would let it buy more than
180 aircraft without a production gap "should it be determined
that this is needed," said Douglas Karas, a spokesman. "But
we're not committed to buying more yet."

The Senate amendment urges the secretary of the Air Force
to keep Boeing's production line open by sustaining at least a
minimum C-17 output until further assessment of airlift needs
is completed.