Congressman Garamendi Supports Travis Air Force Base in Coauthoring Bipartisan Letter to OMB on KC-10 Tanker — Press Release

by: Matthew Potter
November 7, 2013

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WASHINGTON, DC – In response to the impending across-the-board budget cuts of sequestration, the Air Force is considering eliminating the entire fleet of KC-10 tankers, which are crucial for the military’s aerial refueling mission. Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA 03) and Congressman Jon Runyan (R-NJ 03) coauthored a letter to the Administration’s Office of Management and Budget expressing opposition and warning that this move could “jeopardize our nation’s refueling capability and threaten our ability to conduct operations around the globe.” The letter also points out that retiring the KC-10 would be “contrary to the Air Force’s own long-term planning.” The letter is linked here and included below.

Garamendi, whose district is home to Travis Air Force Base in Solano County, California and Runyan, whose district is home to Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington County, New Jersey, are both Members of the House Armed Services Committee and the Congressional Mobility Air Forces Caucus.

The KC-10, which entered service in 1981, is the largest refueling aircraft currently in the military’s inventory and has made a significant impact to combat operations and overall mission effectiveness. With almost twice the capacity of the much older KC-135, this airframe is versatile because it combines the operations of aerial refueling, long range cargo transport, and aerial medical transport in a single aircraft. It can also be refueled, while in flight, increasing its delivery range.

“Eliminating the KC-10 fleet doesn’t make sense from the standpoint of military operations or budgeting,” said Garamendi. “The KC-10 serves a pivotal role in our Air Mobility and should for years to come. It is the bridge from the aging KC-135 fleet to the next generation of tanker aircraft. Tearing down this bridge would be penny-wise and pound-foolish. This idea should be taken off the table.”

“The proposal to retire the entire KC-10 inventory doesn’t take into account the critical air refueling mission requirements this vital platform has been meeting,” said Runyan. “As the new tanker gradually comes online there is no doubt that the KC-10 is fulfilling a crucial role in support of our warfighters. The Air Force’s slash and burn budget programming is contrary to the common sense approach that is needed in this tight budget environment. The emphasis should be on spending taxpayer dollars wisely while fulfilling mission requirements, not on creating unacceptable mission risk.”

This letter constitutes the latest step in their advocacy campaign. Last week, the Congressmen led a letter to the Department of Defense. In an Armed Services Committee hearing and in private conversations with the Air Force, Garamendi spoke with Air Force leaders about the importance of the KC-10. Congressman Runyan has also addressed this issue on several occasions with Air Force leadership in recent House Armed Services Committee hearings and conference calls, expressing his strong concerns that the KC-10 not be retired prematurely.

Text of the bipartisan letter to the OMB is included here:

November 01, 2013

The Honorable Sylvia Mathews Burwell

Director, Office of Management and Budget

Eisenhower Executive Office Building

1650 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20503

Dear Director Burwell:

We are writing to you to express our opposition to the possible retirement of the Air Force’s KC-10 aircraft fleet in the budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. We have previously corresponded with Secretary of Defense Hagel on this issue and would ask you to consider the value the KC-10 provides to the Air Force mission and the risks incurred by discontinuing the fleet as you deliberate on programs for inclusion in the FY 2015 budget request.

Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh has commented both to the press and in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on the Air Force’s consideration of divesting its entire KC-10 fleet to meet the spending targets imposed by sequestration. While we understand that some cuts may be necessary, eliminating the KC-10 fleet carries an unacceptable level of risk. If the KC-10 were retired, the Air Force would be left with only the much older KC-135 to perform all aerial refueling – leaving this important mission to a single aircraft with an average age of over 50 years. This move would jeopardize our nation’s refueling capability and threaten our ability to conduct operations around the globe.

Retiring the KC-10 fleet is contrary to the Air Force’s own long-term planning. The KC-10 modernization program, which is currently underway, recognizes a service life of at least 2045. Concurrently, the Air Force’s air refueling recapitalization plan would replace the entire KC-135 fleet over the next several decades before retiring and replacing the KC-10 fleet in the 2050-2060 timeframe. The KC-10 has much left to contribute over the next half century, and retiring the fleet would waste a tremendous amount of valuable air refueling capability and investment made by American taxpayers.

We appreciate your attention to this issue and look forward to working with you on a budget that promotes our nation’s fiscal well-being and preserves our national defense.


Member of Congress


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