Rohrabacher Calls C-17 Cuts Irresponsible and Indefensible

May 7, 2009

Washington, May 7, 2009 - President Barack Obama on Thursday recommended ending production of the Long Beach-built Boeing C-17.

His proposed $3.7 trillion budget includes $91 million to shut down the military airlifter's production line, which employs more than 5,000 people in Long Beach.

Scrapping the military cargo plane was proposed last month by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, not long after the president expressed support for the program on his Website.

A White House budget memo stated that the 205 ordered C-17s, as well as the fleet of Lockheed C-5 airlifters, are adequate to meet Department of Defense needs.

Obama's recommendation does not seal the plane's fate. The administration budget, which includes $17 billion in program cuts, requires congressional approval.

Reps. Laura Richardson, D-Long Beach, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, launched into action Thursday, joing several other members of Congress in signing a letter to Obama calling the proposal to end the program "an enormous mistake" that would jeopardize national security.

Reached by phone, Rohrabacher called the C-17 proposal "irresponsible and indefensible" as the nation escalates its effort in Afghanistan.

"If we need to project power any place in the world and have the backup we need, the C-17 is essential," Rohrabacher said. "It's not a cliche. This would be a big issue if this plane was (built) someplace else."

The veteran congressman also said that there were promising signs for foreign orders.
Rohrabacher said the C-17 recommendation came down to "Pentagon politics," not "party politics."

Indeed, powerful Republicans like Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah and Democrats like Sen. Barbara Boxer of California are lobbying to save the plane.

"What you've got is people in the Pentagon who've got their loyalties that have been established over the years, and those loyalties are not working to the best interest to the security of the United States, in cases like this," Rohrabacher said.

Why else, he asked, would the Pentagon continue the aging Lockheed C-5, but not the highly regarded Boeing C-17?

"The bottom line is there are stupid things (in the budget) like keeping the C-5A, which are airplanes that are so old if there ever is a crisis they will be incapacitated by age in a very short time," he said.

A Boeing Co. spokesman for the C-17 program could not be reached to comment.

Obama's budget announcement regarding the C-17, which was anticipated, followed positive news for the military cargo plane.

On Tuesday, Chicago-based Boeing received a U.S. Air Force contract valued at up to $400 million for two of the aircraft intended for NATO allies and Sweden and Finland.

Before that, a House panel proposed adding $2.2 billion for eight C-17s to Obama's pending war request, according to the Associated Press.
Original Article: Long Beach Press-Telegram