Will Congress Pull the Plug on C-17’s Life Support?

Mackenzie Eaglen /

C-17 Jet

Having canceled nearly 50 major programs in last year’s defense budget, the secretary of defense is making another run at finishing off the C-17 and Joint Strike Fighter alternate engine. Congress spared these programs last year, but may be willing to go along with Secretary Gates this time around.

Certainly President Obama has changed his tune. During the presidential campaign, he singled out the C-17 as a must-have priority, saying America needed it to “preserve global reach in the air.” Now, however, the Pentagon says it has enough “lift” without it. Odd, considering that the Army and Marine Corps are still adding personnel.

It’s simple math: To move more extra troops (and their heavy gear, including Abrams tanks and Apache helicopters), you need extra lift to get them to places like Haiti, Chile, and Afghanistan. And that lift can be handy on the home front too: witness the welcome service of the C-17s that recently provided support to those devastated by the Gulf Coast oil spill. (more…)