The all-but-obsolete C-130H is a symbol of the ridiculous situation lawmakers put Air Force leaders in. Those leaders, under intense pressure to slash $10.8 billion this year under sequestration, have cut thousands of airmen and grounded squadrons because they don’t have enough money for flying hours.
Yet members of Congress stymie them in efforts to retire 32 of the aging Hercules, insisting the Air Force keep flying the ’70s aircraft. Keeping them will cost the Air Force at least $167 million over the next two years.
Out of self interest and at taxpayers’ expense, members of Congress are pressing for more laws that would control the Air Force’s airlift capabilities. One bill, introduced by Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, directs the Air Force to retrofit the old airlifters with new Rolls-Royce engines. The senator says he wants the new engines to improve aircraft speed and range, but it’s hard to ignore that the Rolls-Royce engine plant is in his home state.
Other lawmakers want to freeze aircraft transfers and retirements until a panel completes its review of Air Force structure in February. The message: They will continue to block efforts to shed airlifters.
The services have been ordered to find cuts, decisions that become more difficult as sequestration drags on. At the same time, the Air Force must be able to invest in new planes and technology. Holding onto old C-130s the Air Force doesn’t need is a waste of hundreds of millions of dollars that should be invested in the service’s future.