We wrote about this almost exactly one year ago. Here’s the original article from October 7, 2013:
And the hits keep coming for the procurement people at the Pentagon. In addition to the ongoing F-35 debacle, the newest money waster at the Pentagon is the C-27J cargo plane.
The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing and the result is a waste of $567 million in cargo planes that the Air Force is purchasing and immediately flying to their “boneyard” in the Arizona desert. And while they’re doing this they continue to purchase even more planes.
The Pentagon doesn’t really want to publicize the existence of the “boneyard” at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, where some 4,400 aircraft and 13 aerospace vehicles, with a total value of more than $35 billion, sit unused.
The planes are built by Rome-based Alenia Aermacchi, under what was initially a $2 billion contract, though that was scaled back. Of course, they had an assist from two Ohio Senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman.
When the program began 800 jobs and a mission at Mansfield Air National Guard Base depended on it. Brown urged the military in a 2011 letter to purchase up to 42 of the aircraft, saying too few planes “will weaken our national and homeland defense.”
The program was canceled because of sequestration but service officials still issued a request to industry on May 10 for proposals to purchase even more of the same exact aircraft that will likely sit in the boneyard.
What’s behind this incredible waste of money? The C-27J Spartan has found itself in the middle of a battle between the Air Force’s active duty and the Air National Guard. Active duty leaders have said the service likes the aircraft, but can’t afford it with the forthcoming budget cuts.
Guard leaders have responded saying the aircraft will save the service money and the Guard, which was set to receive the bulk of the fleet, is being unfairly targeted to absorb the brunt of the service’s budget cuts.
For the most part Congress has taken the side of the Guard in this ongoing debate. Lawmakers have ordered the Air Force to consider buying more C-27Js even though they are set to follow through on plans to send the C-27J fleet to the service’s boneyard.
Air Force leaders had said the sustainment costs were too expensive to keep the C-27J when compared to the C-130. Former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz told Congress in 2012 it cost $9,000 per hour to fly the C-27J and $10,400 to fly the C-130.
Even though the C-130 was slightly higher per hour, the C-130 is well established within the fleet and the Air Force couldn’t afford to introduce and sustain the C-27J.
Meanwhile, The U.S. Forest Service has released a study on how the C-27J could be used by the agency if the Air Force gives them seven as expected.
Well, the chickens have come home to roost or more rightly to the Air Force bone yard.
WASHINGTON – A U.S. government watchdog agency is asking the Air Force to explain why it destroyed 16 aircraft initially bought for the Afghan air force and turn them into $32,000 of scrap metal instead of finding other ways to salvage nearly $500 million in U.S. funds spent on the program.
John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, asked Air Force Secretary Deborah James to document all decisions made about the destruction of the 16 C-27J aircraft that were stored at Kabul International Airport for years, and what the service planned to do with four additional planes now in Germany.
“I am concerned that the officials responsible for planning and executing the scrapping of the planes may not have considered other possible alternatives in order to salvage taxpayer dollars.” Sopko said in a letter to James that was dated Oct. 3 and released Thursday by his office.
Sopko also asked if any other parts of the planes had been sold before they were destroyed by the Defense Logistics Agency.
Sopko’s office has been investigating the matter since December 2013 after numerous non-profit groups and military officials raised questions about funds wasted on the planes.
The U.S. government spent $486 million to buy and refurbish 20 older C-27A airplanes from Alenia, a unit of Italy’s Finmeccanica SpA , but later canceled the program because a lack of spare parts was severely limiting their availability for military use.
Instead, the Pentagon decided to buy four larger C-130 planes built by Lockheed Martin Corp to do the work.
Pentagon spokesman Major Brad Avots said the U.S. military decided to destroy the planes “to minimize impact on drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan,” but would provide more information after a review.
Avots said the Pentagon and Air Force would consider various options for the remaining four planes, including possible sale to other parties.
“Working in a wartime environment such as Afghanistan brings with it many challenges, and we continually seek to improve our processes,” he said.
He said the U.S. military was also working to help Afghanistan “improve accountability and help instill sound financial management practices in daily operations while reducing the risk of fraud, waste and abuse.”
In an interview last year with NBC News, Sopko said it was unclear if the incident was criminal fraud or mismanagement, but the waste was not an isolated incident in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon’s inspector general has also investigated the issue, which the non-profit Project on Government Oversight calls “a shining example of the billions wasted in Afghanistan.”
In January 2013, the Pentagon’s inspector general office said the aircraft flew only 234 of the 4,500 required hours from January through September 2012. The office also said about $200 million were needed to buy spare parts for the planes.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by David Gregorio & Kim Coghill)
Sometimes, the incompetence at the Pentagon knows no bounds.