The House Appropriations Committee defense panel’s (HAC-D) version of the fiscal 2022 defense funding bill recommends $16.6 billion for aircraft procurement for the U.S. Air Force–a more than $900 million increase over the Biden administration’s budget request.
The biggest boost would come in the account for Lockheed Martin [LMT] C-130J airlifters. While the Air Force requested nearly $129 million for one plane in fiscal 2022, the House defense appropriators would add $429 million to buy four more aircraft for the Air Force Reserve and nearly $58 million to address diminishing manufacturing source issues.
In addition, legislators would fund procurement upgrades for older C-130 airlifters at $274 million, a proposed increase of $245 million. Of the boost, $151 million would go for an eight-blade propeller upgrade, $79 million for an enhancement for the plane’s Allison T-56 engine made by Allison Engine Company–now Rolls-Royce North America, and $15 million for a modular firefighting system.
The HAC-D mark also pushes for the non-politicization of the strategic basing process for Air National Guard (ANG) and Air Force Reserve (AFR) C-130Js. Last November, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) raised concerns about the Air Force’s timing of an announcement to base new C-130Js at Savannah Air National Guard Base in Georgia–Main Operating Base 6, and he criticized the move as potentially having influence over the state’s upcoming Senate runoff elections (Defense Daily, Nov. 25, 2020). Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) won the runoff elections despite support voiced for the Air Force basing decision by Warnock’s and Ossoff’s Republican incumbent opponents, former Sens. David Perdue (Ga.) and Kelly Loeffler (Ga.).
Last November, after the Air Force announcement of Savannah Air National Guard Base as one of four preferred locations for ANG C-130J main operating bases, Smith said that the decision could be seen as politically motivated and preempting Congress’ final budgeting decisions on how many sites will be required.
“The committee finds that recent basing actions by the Air Force have weakened the qualities of standardization and transparency in this [strategic basing] process,” according to the new HAC-D report on the panel’s version of the fiscal 2022 defense funding bill. “The committee has operated with the understanding that the Air Force would, at minimum, not announce preferred alternatives for C–130J basing unless all the aircraft required to equip each unit and location in question had been funded by enacted appropriations legislation. However, the November 2020 announcement of the preferred alternative for the location known as Main Operating Base 6 was made prior to funds for aircraft to equip that location being made available.”
“In order to restore standardization and transparency to the C-130J basing process, the committee directs the secretary of the Air Force to submit a report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees [by Sept. 30] clarifying when it is appropriate to initiate or announce each major decision point in the strategic basing process for C–130J aircraft appropriated for the ANG and AFR, as well as clarifying which offices hold responsibility for such decisions within the Department of the Air Force,” per the HAC-D report.
House defense appropriators, in their version of the fiscal 2022 defense funding bill, also recommend adding $175 million to fulfill the Air Force’s unfunded priority list request to buy additional power modules of the Pratt & Whitney [RTX] F-135 engine for the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter.
HAC-D did not advise adding any F-35’s to the Biden administration’s request for 85 aircraft–48 for the Air Force, 20 for the U.S. Navy, and 17 for the U.S. Marine Corps. In addition to the C-130 and F135 increases, HAC-D provides $114 million to buy six MQ-9 Reapers by General Atomics for the Air Force, which had not requested any MQ-9s in fiscal 2022.