Money Part Of The Air Force Appropriations Bill
Private jets are bad,
a symbol of corporate excess. That was the message Congress sent
when the big three automakers flew into to town for hearings
related to their bailouts by the federal government. But the 2010
House Defense Appropriations bill includes nearly $200 million for
the Air Force to buy three new Gulfstream 550 jets, which the
military calls C-37's, for transportation of VIP's.
The Air Force had requested funding for one Gulfstream 550 to
upgrade it's passenger air service. The appropriations committee
added two more at it's own discretion.
Roll Call reports that the house bill requests money for two
additional planes, and that they be assigned to D.C. area units
that provide transportation to members of Congress as well as
military and other VIPs. The version of the 550 that Gulfstream
sells to the military is a more modest aircraft than the jets sold
to private customers.
Air Force spokesman Vincent King told Roll Call: “This
line item provides funding to purchase C-37 aircraft. The C-37 is
the military variant of the commercial Gulfstream 550 executive
jet. C-37s provide executive airlift for senior U.S. government
officials including Congress and combatant commanders.”
One aircraft was requested by Representative Sanford Bishop
(D-GA), and Representative Jack Kingston (R-GA) was asked to
request an earmark for the plane. Kingston's office said he did not
make that earmark request.
Since the aircraft were listed as
program increases rather than earmarks for new spending, they tend
to come under less scrutiny in the appropriations process,
according to Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common
Sense. He told Roll Call that "It needs to be justified on the
merits. It shouldn't just be squeezed into the bill."
Officials justify the private planes with an argument that for
security reasons, some top government officials need to be able to
not fly commercial. But Loren Thompson, defense analyst at the
conservative Lexington Institute, said that “applies to the
top members of the executive branch more than it applies to the
Member from the 13th district of Illinois.”
Thompson went on to say that it makes more sense for a top
military official who is traveling to remote locations with a staff
of 4 or 5 people to travel by private jet.
Which sounds very much like the arguments heard from top
business executives talking about their airplanes as business tools
during BixAv Day at Oshkosh last week.