Leader Blues

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

TOP STORY>> Top general backs C-130J

IN SHORT: Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones, Jr., tells the Senate Armed Serv-ices Commit-tee that the new planes are needed to replace an aging fleet, many of them at LRAFB.

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Leader editor

Several key senators and one top general spoke out yesterday in Washington on behalf of the beleaguered C-130J program, which civilians in the Pentagon want to kill to save nearly $5 billion.

Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones, Jr., commander of U.S. Command and Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that production of the C-130Js should continue.

Jones said, “The C-130J program was a much needed program while I served as commandant of the Marine Corps because of the age of the C-130s that we had in the fleet particularly during Operation Enduring Freedom. We were flying some remarkable missions, but it was the skill of the pilots flying some very, very old aircraft that stimulated me at the time to elevate the C-130J program to the very height of our service acquisition objectives.

“I believe that this is a technology that is absolutely needed,” Jones added. “This aircraft is not only good for America’s forces but also will be well received on the international market, too.

“I hope very much — from a military standpoint — that this program will continue,” the general went on. “I think it’s extremely important particularly when we look at the age on our C-130 fleet and the technology the C-130J can bring to our capabilities.”

Other witnesses participating in the hearing included Gen. John P. Abizaid, Commander, U.S. Central Command, and General Bryan D. Brown, Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command.

Several of the C-130Js were scheduled to arrive at Little Rock Air Force Base, which is also the training center for the new cargo planes. The administration has called for eliminating 51 C-130Js for the Air Force and 20 C-130Js for the Navy.

The Bush administration has recommended cutting the C-130Js and other airplanes and weapons systems as a cost-saving measure.

The administration hopes to save $60 billion if Congress approves the cuts. That figure is about the same as the cost of fighting the war in Iraq for a year.

Members of Congress whose districts would be affected are fighting the cuts.

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned the generals in hopes of continuing the plane’s production in Marietta, Ga., where Lockheed-Martin manufactures the C-130Js at a cost of about $70 million each.

Critics say cost overruns have made the planes too expensive.
The total savings from scrapping the C-130Js over the next six years would be $4.99 billion, of which $4.24 billion would come from canceling the Air Force order.

Little Rock Air Force Base, which has two C-130Js, could still get six more over the next year, but no more if the cuts are approved.