WASHINGTON – In a letter to U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin and Ranking Member John McCain, Senators John Hoeven and Kent Conrad today made a strong case for retaining the Air Force’s C-27J program and ensuring that the North Dakota Air National Guard continue to have a flying mission. Representative Rick Berg sent a similar letter to House leadership.
“We hope that you will use the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to prevent the Air Force from implementing a plan that leaves gaps in the Air Force’s mission, increases costs, and undercuts the long-term health of the Air National Guard,” the senators wrote. “We stand ready to assist you in this effort.”
In February, the Air Force proposed cancelling the C-27J program, eliminating already-purchased C-27J aircraft, and redirecting funds approved for additional C-27J purchases to other programs, a move that would adversely affect the North Dakota Air National Guard, which is currently tasked with this mission.
The C-27J is a medium-sized cargo aircraft and is uniquely capable of moving mission-critical and time-sensitive cargo to units in difficult terrain and locations with short, unimproved runways inaccessible by other means. The C-27J also plays an integral role in supporting the Air National Guard’s homeland defense mission, as well as support for missions assigned by governors, such as fighting floods, fires and other disasters.
The Air Force currently proposes to replace the C-27J mission in Fargo with an Intelligence Targeting Group, which would leave North Dakota as the only state in the nation without a manned flying mission.
“This is unacceptable,” the senators wrote. “The North Dakota Air National Guard cannot afford to see its C-21 mission terminated until it receives the C-27J or some other follow-on manned flying mission. We have raised this concern with several senior Air Force leaders, but in the absence of any cooperation from the Air Force, we look to the NDAA to provide a legislative solution to this problem.
“We believe that the case for the C-27J is strong, and we write to urge you to use the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act to prevent cancellation of the program and the retirement of the aircraft,” the senators wrote.