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Pentagon Submits Budget, And Services Ask for More
By Josh White
The Washington Post
Tuesday 16 October 2007
Air Force lobbying for C-17s raises questions.
The Pentagon not only left new C-17 transport planes out of its
budget request this year, it set aside half a billion dollars to halt the
planes' production. Officially, the Air Force took the same view,
swearing off any more C-17s, which cost $250 million apiece.
Behind the scenes, however, Air Force officials and Boeing, which
makes the C-17, have been lobbying Congress to get more of the planes
built, key lawmakers said. Seven House members have responded by
inserting into the defense bill one of that chamber's largest single
earmarks - a demand that the Air Force give Boeing $2.42 billion for new
The Air Force "made it very clear to me that they needed the C-17 and
could use the aircraft," said Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), a fiscal
conservative and one of the seven sponsors. "But we were going to have to
stick it into the budget" because the Air Force was not going to allocate
the money itself.
Congress has often padded the military's budget with demands for
weaponry that the Pentagon says it does not need - ranging from refueling
tankers to artillery cannons and helicopters. But the C-17 case
illustrates how individual military services sometimes lobby quietly to
resurrect pet projects that wound up on the cutting-room floor in Defense
Department budget deliberations.
"This has been going on probably since the Revolutionary War," said
Dina Rasor, chief investigator with the Follow the Money Project, which
tracks military spending on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. "There's a
wink and nod here. The Pentagon will get what they want and the Congress
will get what they want. Earmarking is a way for them to sneak it in the
"Everyone keeps voting the money, and everyone's happy," Rasor said.
"As a result, the defense budget is now beyond comprehension."
This is the second consecutive year that 10 unbudgeted C-17s have
made their way into the defense bill, prompting three senators to
question the Air Force procurement process and sparking concerns on
Capitol Hill that more multibillion-dollar earmarks could be coming soon.
The Air Force and Boeing previously collaborated to lobby Congress
for $30 billion to lease modified Boeing 767 civilian aircraft for use as
military tankers. That effort was conceived by Boeing as the 767, like
the C-17, was about to go out of production. It was blocked after a
Senate investigation found evidence that Pentagon officials viewed the
tanker lease as a politically influenced bailout for Boeing.
In that case, the Air Force secretary and his top acquisitions deputy
resigned, an Air Force procurement officer was sent to prison, Boeing's
chief executive was replaced and the company agreed to pay $615 million
in large part to settle liability for the tanker mess. Air Force
officials said the episode has led to an abundance of caution in
But the C-17 earmark - the largest in the $507 billion defense bill -
is now at the center of a controversy over funding for the Air Force's
strategic airlift fleet of about 300 planes, a group of aircraft that are
used to ferry heavy equipment, supplies and troops into and around Iraq
Although the Pentagon has officially decided it would be cheaper and
more effective to shut down the C-17 assembly line and upgrade an older
fleet of C-5 transport aircraft, Air Force officials have been
consistently saying behind the scenes that it would make more sense to
retire 30 of the older planes and buy 30 new C-17s.
That option, which the Air Force deputy chief of staff for policy and
the head of the Air Mobility Command have explained in briefings to House
and Senate staff members and lawmakers, would require a shift in existing
policy and cost $8 billion that the Air Force has officially said it is
not prepared to spend.
"The Air Force doesn't have the money for the C-17s," said a senior
Air Force official familiar with the issue, adding that "if someone wants
to give it to us, we'll certainly take it." Said another senior Air Force
official: "If we had the money, we would retire the C-5s and build
The Air Force instead has already started upgrading the C-5, at a
multibillion-dollar cost, but Air Force officials say the work, by
Lockheed Martin, is now under review because it is well over budget.
Boeing has also been lobbying for the C-17s. The company and its
employees gave more than $72,000 in campaign contributions over the past
two years to the six Republicans and one Democrat who sponsored the
earmark, according to federal campaign finance records. In total, nearly
50 members of Congress wrote letters supporting the 10 additional C-17s.
Despite the Pentagon's decision to close the production line, Boeing
said this year that it was prepared to risk millions of dollars to keep
its C-17 line open because the company was getting indications from
Capitol Hill that orders for 30 C-17s would be coming. The company made
that decision without receiving an official response from the Air Force
to its unsolicited proposal for the additional planes.
"Boeing's decision was also based on public statements by Air Force
officials that they might consider procuring additional C-17s if Congress
allowed the Air Force to retire a number of older, unreliable C-5s," said
Boeing spokesman Douglas Kennett.
The C-17, the smaller of the two planes, first flew in 1991. The
plane has a crew of three, a maximum range of 2,400 nautical miles
without refueling and a maximum payload capability of 170,900 pounds. The
C-5, in contrast, first flew in 1970, has a crew of seven, a range of
2,650 nautical miles without refueling and a payload capability of
Akin said Congress was put in the position of playing a "high-stakes
poker game" to prevent Boeing from shutting down the C-17 assembly line -
it would cost taxpayers far more to restart it in the future - while also
figuring out the Air Force's needs.
He said the Air Force has traditionally preferred to spend money on
planes that control the skies - such as the F-22 fighter jet - rather
than those that transport supplies, vehicles and people, such as the
Rep. Russ Carnahan (D), Akin's colleague from Missouri, also
sponsored the earmark, in part to protect the jobs of about 2,000 St.
Louis workers who produce C-17 parts. "There was a general belief out
there that they didn't request these at a time when they clearly are
needed and wanted because they were confident that Congress would do it,"
So far, no similar language has been added to the Senate version of
the bill. Moreover, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Edward M. Kennedy
(D-Mass.) and Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.) wrote to the Air Force in July
alleging that the service may have inappropriately encouraged Boeing to
keep the C-17 line open as part of a ploy to build them outside normal
Carper, a supporter of upgrading the C-5, said that if C-17s are the
Air Force's priority, the service should put them in the budget. He said
that the military services like new weapons systems more than they like
old ones because they "like to have new toys."
In September, McCain urged the Defense Department's inspector general
to investigate, writing in a letter dated Sept. 11 that he is "troubled
by the Air Force's apparent disregard for proper acquisition policy,
practice and procedure and seeming eagerness to further contractors'
interests," particularly when dealing with a program that is not part of
the president's budget.
Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne responded in late August that
there are reviews underway to determine whether some of the C-5s should
be replaced with C-17s. "This review is preliminary only and my staff has
not reached any conclusions regarding its suitability or affordability,"
Wynne wrote in the letter. "I am aware of no commitments that the Air
Force or the Department has made to the prime contractor regarding future
Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government
Oversight, said the congressional sponsors are "not ashamed of the
earmarks, they're proud of them." She said that "it's part of the
fellowship between the service, the contractor and their patrons in the
Congress, and they work very hard not to leave anyone hanging out to
While such a large earmark might help protect thousands of jobs at
Boeing and its subcontractors, it could easily pull money away from more
important weapons needs, Brian said.
Staff researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.
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Top Air Force Official Dies in Apparent Suicide
By Eric Schmitt and Ginger Thompson
The New York Times
Monday 15 October 2007
Washington - The second-highest-ranking member of the Air Force's
procurement office was found dead Sunday in an apparent suicide, Air
Force and police officials said Monday.
The civilian official, Charles D. Riechers, 47, came under scrutiny
by the Senate Armed Services Committee this month after reports that the
Air Force had arranged for him to be paid about $13,400 a month by a
private contractor, Commonwealth Research Institute, while he awaited
clearance from the White House for his selection as principal deputy
assistant secretary for acquisition. He was appointed to the job, which
does not require Senate confirmation, in January.
Kraig Troxell, a spokesman for the Sheriff's Office in Loudoun
County, Va., west of Washington, said friends found Mr. Riechers's body
at his home on Sunday night. Mr. Troxell said results from an autopsy
would be made public on Tuesday, but two military officials said Mr.
Riechers had apparently killed himself by running his car's engine in his
A retired Air Force officer, Mr. Riechers (pronounced REE-kers) had a
record of accomplishment in aviation and electronic warfare and had
received commendations for his role as a manager in Pentagon purchasing.
The Air Force's procurement programs have been handicapped for years by
accusations of favoritism, inefficiency and technical shortfalls, and Mr.
Riechers's new role in the procurement office was supposed to have been
repairing the damage.
Instead, his death appears likely only to call renewed attention to
Commonwealth Research, registered as a nonprofit organization in
Johnstown, Pa., paid Mr. Riechers for two months as a senior technical
adviser while he awaited final approval to the Air Force post. During
that time, he worked for Sue C. Payton, assistant secretary of the Air
Force for acquisition, on several projects for which the service had
contracted with Commonwealth Research for technical assistance.
Payments to Mr. Riechers totaling $26,788 were confirmed by Mary
Bevan, a spokeswoman for the Concurrent Technologies Corporation, the
parent of Commonwealth Research, or C.R.I.
Those payments were first reported on Oct. 1 by The Washington Post.
In an interview with The Post, Mr. Riechers said: "I really didn't do
anything for C.R.I. I got a paycheck from them."
The Air Force has defended the arrangement as routine. The matter
raised enough questions, however, that the service asked the Defense
Department's inspector general several months ago to review the propriety
of such consulting arrangements. A spokesman for the inspector general
said Monday that the review was still under way.
In addition to the recent questions focusing narrowly on Mr.
Riechers, the Pentagon and the Justice Department are conducting criminal
investigations into the possibility of bribery and other offenses
involving some $6 billion in contracts to provide essential supplies to
American troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.
Criminal activity aside, Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat
who heads the Armed Services Committee, said at a hearing this month that
far too many weapons acquisitions had been plagued by "cost increases,
late deliveries to the war fighters and performance shortfalls."
Mr. Levin said 25 of the Pentagon's major defense acquisition
programs had experienced cost overruns of at least 50 percent. And he
expressed concern about an "alarming lack of acquisition planning across
Last year, the Pentagon canceled a $23 billion deal to lease tankers
from Boeing, after the disclosure that the Air Force's top procurement
officer, Darleen Druyun, had favored Boeing in contracts before being
hired by the company.
In May, Mr. Riechers told the northern Virginia chapter of the Armed
Forces Communications and Electronics Association that the Druyun scandal
was an "aberration," not representative of the Air Force's acquisition
system, and that restoring credibility to that system was one of his top
Responding to questions about Mr. Riechers's death, an Air Force
spokesman, Lt. Col. Edward W. Thomas Jr., said Monday that the
arrangements the Pentagon made with C.R.I. helped to provide short-term
contractual work as consultants for people awaiting final clearance for
senior civilian government positions.
Colonel Thomas said that under an existing contract with Commonwealth
Research, Mr. Riechers had provided technical advice to the Air Force on
several programs, including the use of bursts of microwaves as a
crowd-control technique, employing remotely piloted craft in United
States airspace and modernizing the C-130 transport plane.
"The Air Force wanted to get him working on Air Force issues, and
this was a good way to do that," Colonel Thomas said, adding that the
service stood behind the agreement.
Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, said
that whether or not Mr. Riechers's suicide had anything to do with the
payments he received from Commonwealth Research, it would cast a further
shadow over the Pentagon's beleaguered procurement system and its most
important contractors. Concurrent Technologies has extensive contracts
with the Pentagon, intelligence agencies and other federal departments.
Mr. Riechers was a retired lieutenant colonel with 20 years of
operational, acquisition and staff experience, according to the Air
Force. He had logged more than 1,900 flight hours, with 90 hours of
combat and combat support time in B-52G and EC-130H aircraft. He had a
bachelor's degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan
and a master's in electrical engineering from California Polytechnic
Margot Williams contributed reporting from New York.