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Letter Urges Congress to Support Pentagon Decision to Terminate the C-130J Transport Aircraft
April 28, 2005
Dear Member of Congress:
In December 2004 the Pentagon's proposed budget called for the termination of the C-130J transport aircraft program as a way to save taxpayers $5 billion and put an end to the procurement of a problem-plagued aircraft. We wanted to remind you that, despite the recent passage of an amendment in the Senate, Secretary Rumsfeld's program cancellation recommendation remains unchanged.
We are concerned there may be confusion that the amendment offered by Senator Saxby Chambliss to the defense supplemental bill would prevent the Pentagon from canceling the C-130J military cargo plane. Both the Air Force and Office of the Secretary of Defense have acknowledged that it does not. The amendment only prevents the Pentagon from using any of the money in the supplemental budget request to pay for program cancellation costs, and not from any current or future budget funds. Moreover, the Chambliss amendment is not in the House version of the Iraq budget bill and therefore is not guaranteed to be in the final version of the bill.
This is not to say that there may not be new assaults on Secretary Rumsfeld's prudent decision to cut the government's losses by terminating the C-130J program. For this reason, we wish to also remind you of concerns our organizations have separately and collectively voiced over C-130J. As you may remember, on February 24 the Project on Government Oversight and Taxpayers for Common Sense Action sent a joint statement to Secretary Rumsfeld, urging him to "end the overpriced, unneeded, and problem-plagued C-130J program."
That same day, the National Taxpayers Union sent a letter to Secretary Rumsfeld noting that "Even though supporters of the program point to C-130J's recent improvements in certain performance categories, as well as its service record in other nations' air forces, the preponderance of evidence continues to show that termination of the program is the best option for taxpayers and the military. From 1998 through 2004, authoritative sources such as the Government Accountability Office and the Defense Department Inspector General have documented the aircraft's numerous performance deficiencies."
Since that time the rhetoric from C-130J supporters has increased, but the basic realities confronting the program remain the same. One grossly inflated claim circulating in Congress and the media is that it would cost the government as much as $2 billion to terminate the Air Force's contract with the C-130J's manufacturer, Lockheed Martin. Even if the contract is terminated at the government's convenience, we believe those numbers are overblown. The contract clearly sets a "cancellation ceiling amount" of $439.7 million if it were terminated before November 2005, and $383.3 million if it were cancelled before November 2006. Senator John McCain has said publicly that he was assured by Lockheed's CEO that the cancellation costs would be limited to the $383 million figure.
We believe the C-130J could be cancelled for cause. In that case, the government pays no cancellation fee. According to the Inspector General's 2004 report, "not one C-130J delivered aircraft was fully compliant with the contract specification." Nor has it yet been declared operationally suitable or effective by the Pentagon's Director of Operational Test and Evaluation. In addition, on February 9, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Michael Wynne told an investment conference in New York City that changing transportation requirements and capabilities prompted the Department's decision to terminate the C-130J program.
We urge you to support Secretary Rumsfeld's decision and resist the pressure you will receive in upcoming weeks from special interest groups. Terminating the C-130J remains the best option for taxpayers and our nation's men and women of the military. Should you have any questions, please contact Eric Miller, Project on Government Oversight at (202) 347-1122, Pete Sepp, National Taxpayers Union at (703) 683-5700, or Austin Clemens, Taxpayers for Common Sense Action at (202) 546-8500, extension 106.