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Defense Department Reiterates Stand on C-17 Production

The C-17 transport has been in production now for almost twenty years and forms the backbone of the U.S. Air Force’s strategic lift. It replaced the Cold War era C-141 aircraft and has been built by Boeing (CA) at their plants in Long Beach, CA and St. Louis, MO. The Air Force actually possesses more C-17’s then originally planned because Congress has been adding them to the budget for the last few years. In 2010 the new Obama Administration did not request any further production of the system but Congress added them and the President did not follow through with a veto.

The 2011 defense budget also contained no C-17 procurement and this has been met with a better reception by Congress in general. There are still those Senators and Representatives from California, Missouri and Kansas who would like to see more aircraft built. They are certainly being used, but the Air Force and DoD argue that the money could be spent on more important parts of the defense budget. There are also concerns that when the Congress adds aircraft they do not necessarily fund the support which takes money out of the budget as well.

The Long Beach plant will close when production of the aircraft ends which would be a big blow to the local economy.

Despite Congress’ better attitude this year the Department must have some concerns as they released a strongly worded article yesterday detailing the reasons why no more aircraft are needed. This reads in part “..defense officials agreed with the subcommittee’s leaders, Sens. Thomas Carper and John McCain, that the C-17, in addition to the C-5, has been critical to airlift in and out of Iraq and Afghanistan. However, they said, the military’s current fleet of 223 C-17s and 111 C-5s is more than enough airlift capability for years to come.” It also contains a threat as last year that the President “.. has promised to veto any legislation that provides for more C-17s.”.

Does that mean there will be no more U.S. orders for the C-17? It might, and it might not. Congress is loathe to end programs like this that are not only successful, used and provide several hundred jobs across the U.S. Boeing certainly would like to keep the line going. The defense budget looks like it may make it to the floor of the Senate and House without C-17. That allows floor amendments and the conference committee to add the transports. If the Congressional leadership is disciplined it may end up without additions.

The other concern is how well Congress believes Obama will veto the bill over a few billion spent on the C-17. If they don’t think he will in the end as happened last year then the aircraft quantity may increase.

Photo from TMWolf Flickr photostream.

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Canada Buys American Trucks from Navistar

Canada’s Government announced that they had placed a $274 million Canadian order with Navistar for 1,300 trucks to support operations in Canada. The Commercial Off-the-shelf (COTS) order was to replace aging trucks currently in use. The Gazette reports that there has been some criticism of the Government for buying American over vehicles made in Canada. The U.S. buys a great deal of equipment made in Canada, and many U.S. companies like Bell Helicopter and the “Big 3” automakers have plants in Canada. The contract also requires Navistar to purchase $274 million in offsets which for a start will include the tires the trucks roll on. The U.S. and Canadian economies in many ways are integrated, so Canada turning to a U.S. company is not necessarily like buying from Europe or Asia.

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