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Thu, Aug 06, 2009

U.S. House Approves Nearly $200 Million For Private Jets

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."


Gulfstream C37

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.

FMI: www.house.gov, www.gama.aero


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