Any incident of waste, fraud and abuse by your federal government is disturbing, but some cases are more egregious than others, and this is certainly one of them. More than that, it is a stellar example of why the staunch anti-establishment, fiscal conservatism of the Tea Party so threatens the Washington Establishment.
Unbeknownst to most Americans, the U.S. Air Force purchased 21 C-27J Spartan transport planes, the construction of which began in 2007. Most have been delivered; five more are currently under construction.
Only, the Air Force doesn’t need these brand-new aircraft – and perhaps never did – so, unless the government can find a buyer or a use for them, guess where they’re going?
From the Dayton Daily News:
New cargo planes on order for the U.S. Air Force are being delivered straight into storage in the Arizona desert because the military has no use for them, a Dayton Daily News investigation found.
A dozen nearly new C-27J Spartans from Ohio and elsewhere have already been taken out of service and shipped to the so-called boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. Five more are expected to be built by April 2014, all of which are headed to the boneyard unless another use for them is found.
According to the paper, the Air Force has spent $567 million on 21 C-27J aircraft since 2007.
Worse, the service branch was nearly forced to buy more of the planes. The newspaper said a recent solicitation from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in May sought venders to build more of the planes, “citing Congressional language requiring the military to spend money budgeted for the planes, despite Pentagon protests.”
The Pentagon initially wanted the plane because it had unique uses, like a short takeoff and landing capability. But when sequestration hit, suddenly the Defense Department viewed the aircraft as a luxury it could no longer afford.
So military planners decided to just scrape them instead.
“When they start discarding these programs, it’s wasteful,” Ethan Rosenkranz, national security analyst at the Project on Government Oversight, told the paper.
The five planes currently under construction will be built – and then shipped immediately to the boneyard – because, according to Air Force spokesman Darryl Mayer, they are too far along in the construction process for it to be economically favorable to stop.
“It’s too bad, and a waste,” Brookings Institute government oversight analyst Michael O’Hanlon said. “I’m not sure the program was ever a white elephant, and yet given budget cuts I’m not sure it should be saved now.”
Pathetically, there were those in Congress trying to do just that – save the program. Who were the culprits? That would be a group from Ohio’s congressional delegation led by Sen. Sherrod Brown and his Republican counterpart, Rob Portman, the latter of whom is running for reelection. Both argued for keeping the C-27J program intact:
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and six other Democratic senators wrote a letter in 2011 urging the military to purchase up to 42 of the aircraft, saying too few planes “will weaken our national and homeland defense.”
…Brown along with Republican Sen. Rob Portman, who in February 2012 called the aircraft “critically important,” worked to save the C-27J.
President Obama is culpable too. Call it a port-barrel approach to capturing Ohio’s crucial electoral votes.
Before Congress finally killed funding for more of the planes, the Pentagon said last year that because of extra costs and the fact that the C-130 could do the job of the C-27J, it wanted to divest itself of the latter. Doing that, however, would put the Mansfield, Ohio, Air National Guard Base, and its 800 jobs there, “in peril,” because the C-27J was to be the primary aircraft operated at Mansfield. No aircraft, no mission – and no need to continue base operations at the current level.
Enter election year politics:
…President Barack Obama, after making a campaign stop in Mansfield last year, promised to “find a mission” for the base. This led to eight C-130s being transferred to the base, giving it about 40 more full-time and 200 more part-time military positions. That also left it with the same mission it had prior to a cost-saving round of base closures in 2005.
There’s more Ohio politics at play here. As the paper reports:
A Daily News investigation last year identified the C-27J as one of several weapons systems and programs the Pentagon wanted to cut but Congress budgeted billions of dollars for anyway.
Others included the M-1 Abrams tank and the Global Hawk drone, both of which were protected by Ohio lawmakers and linked to Ohio jobs, leading critics to call the moves the new face of pork barrel spending. Lawmakers said they believed the systems are needed for national defense.
The C-27J is manufactured by Alenia North America — a part of the Italian firm Finmeccanica Inc. — and prime contractor L-3 Communications.
“Finmeccanica and L-3 Communications both have multi-million dollar lobbying efforts and the two companies and their PACs spent more than $1 million on campaign contributions during last year’s election cycle, according to the nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics,” the paper reported.
“Clearly, money has a role to play in this, and clearly where these systems are manufactured, where they are based and located is very important,” Rosencranz told the paper.
“Clearly,” what this outrageous incident proves is that Congress and the White House are playing fast-and-loose politics with your money. Now, I get that this is nothing new, but that’s the crux of the problem, isn’t it? It’s nothing new.
This is the “system” Tea Party conservatives and constitutionalists like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and a few others currently serving in Congress are trying to dismantle – and the same one that establishment politicians from both sides of the aisle are fighting so hard to preserve.
Now you know why this small but vocal group of patriots is so hated by both sides – their presence threatens the Old Order – the order of political patronage that has been a growing cancer in the body politic of our republic for generations.
Regardless of what is said or written about them by political opponents trying to protect their place at the trough, these Tea Party-backed lawmakers are to be commended for, and supported in, their efforts to break the Old Guard’s grip on our political system.