Even when the military agrees to make what critics would consider modest cuts, legislators keep shoveling cash into the Pentagon’s pockets. That’s nothing new in Washington. What is new — and pretty astonishing — is for a Senate panel to do that while legislators demand to shrink the federal budget overall.
Without much elaboration, the committee’s report on the fiscal 2013 defense appropriations bill requires the Air Force to “complete the execution of funds previously authorized appropriated for Global Hawk Block 30.” That was a key priority for manufacturer Northrop Grumman.
The Air Force decided in February to stop buying the Block 30, stranding 10 of the$218 milliondrones on the production line. While the Air Force wants to stick with the next-gen Block 40 version of the Global Hawk, it determined that the Block 30 wasn’t a fit replacement for the hoary old U-2 manned spy planes.
“The reality is that the Global Hawk system has proven not to be less expensive to operate than the U-2,” Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz explained. “And in many respects, the Global Hawk Block 30 system is not as capable from a sensor point of view, as is the U-2.”
Same goes for the C-27J. Schwartz stated that budget constraints required him to shrink the Air Force while buying key planes to make it a “smaller but superb force that maintains our agility, our flexibility and readiness.” Since the C-27J is primarily used for a conflict that’s winding down — Afghanistan — it made sense to put the plane in “recoverable storage” out atits airplane graveyard in Arizona.
The Senate panel is unconvinced. It wants the Air Force to keep funding the “new, highly capable” C-27J. The cost? An extra $137 million. That’s a significant chunk of the $257.6 million the Senate Appropriations Committee added to the Air Force’s aircraft-purchasing budget.