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Project on Government Oversight

POGO's Letter in Response to Raised Questions about Air Force/Boeing deal to make the C-17 Cargo Aircraft "Commercial"

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March 23, 2001 | By: Danielle Brian

Honorable Donald H. Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense, The Pentagon
Washington D.C. 20301-1000

Dear Secretary Rumsfeld:

For the past several months, we have been closely examining a proposal to commercialize the C-17 cargo aircraft. We believe that implementation of the plan, known as the "BC-17X Public/Private Acquisition Strategy," would be ill-advised and leave the taxpayers vulnerable to a substantial financial risk.

This is why we were alarmed when we intercepted an Air Force "Bullet Background Paper" prepared for you in response to Monday's New York Times article. The 2005 Mobility Requirements Study does not definitively demonstrate a need for an additional 60 C-17s. In fact, it says that depending on a myriad of variables, the military may only need as few as six C-17s beyond the 120 currently planned by 2004.

We also believe that heavy government subsidies would significantly offset Air Force claims of savings totaling $6 billion in ownership costs. In addition, our survey of the air freight industry indicates there is little, if any, serious interest in the purchase of a commercial version of the C-17.

Even the Pentagon's former chief testing officer, Philip Coyle, recently cautioned in his FY 2000 report that the "policies and procedures flowing from the push toward commercial acquisition are leading the C-17 down a risky path. A lack of fiscal, technical, and testing realism may be creating fleets that cannot meet effectiveness, sustainability, or interoperability requirements."

We are enclosing a copy of our March 19, 2001 report, "Heavy Lifting for Boeing: Sweetheart Deal Helps Defense Contractor & Hurts Taxpayers."

We commend you for your in-depth review of our military forces and your intention to enact dramatic reforms. While we share your belief in a strong military, we are firmly convinced that implementation of the C-17 proposal would be an obstacle to a true reform agenda.

Sincerely,

Danielle Brian
Executive Director