Brown Questions Defense Department Announcement to Retire C-27J Aircraft from Operations in Afghanistan

Brown, a Mansfield Native, Has Consistently Stood Against Proposed Elimination

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is questioning the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DOD) announcement that it will retire the C-27J aircraft from operations in Afghanistan. In a letter to DOD Secretary Leon Panetta, Brown wrote that the Department’s calculations of the operation and maintenance of the fleet were flawed. Brown noted that it would be in fact more expensive to operate CH-47 aircraft for the same missions, and that eliminating the C-27J program could have consequences for the safety of deployed servicemembers in Afghanistan.

“Slashing the C-27J program—which is essential to the 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield—would be an enormous mistake and detrimental to our national security. Putting aside the flawed calculations executed by the Defense Department, retiring the C-27J program in favor of the CH-47 aircraft would likely cost our military and American taxpayers more,” Brown said. “Preserving the C-27J program makes sense for the Mansfield community, for the safety of our servicemembers, and for the cost-effectiveness of our Armed Forces.”

Brown has consistently stood against the proposals to eliminate the C-27J program, which would affect hundreds of National Guard positions in Mansfield. In March, he visited the Mansfield Air National Guard Base (ANGB) to stand with the Ohio Air National Guard and the greater Mansfield community in opposition to the proposed elimination of the C-27J program, and convened a meeting between Members of the Ohio Congressional delegation and Air Force Secretary Michael Donley. The Senate Armed Services Committee recently passed legislation that would preserve the C-27J program for at least an additional year.

In January, Brown urged President Obama to reject proposals to eliminate the C-27J program, and in December, wrote to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, urging him to delay a decision on the future of the C-27J program until Panetta meets with all relevant stakeholders and fully considers the ramifications of ending the C-27J procurement.

Brown visited the base in October 2011 to tour the new Armed Forces Reserve Center and Rapid Engineers Deployable Heavy Operations Repair Squadron Engineers (RED HORSE) facility. He also visited the base in August 2010 to celebrate a new mission for the 179th Airlift Wing. The 179th Airlift Wing recently became a Joint Air-Army base with the addition of the Army Ohio National Guard's new fire station in May 2010.

In 2005, the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) recommended that the 179th Airlift Wing be dismantled.  The base’s service record, along with actions taken by the Ohio Congressional delegation, kept the base open and transformed it into a joint base. Brown has worked with the White House, Administration officials and Air Force and National Guard personnel to secure the new mission for the Mansfield ANGB.  

The Honorable Leon Panetta
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1000

Dear Secretary Panetta:

I am writing to reiterate my concerns regarding the Air Force’s proposed elimination of the C-27J program and the recent announcement that, despite the successful work, the C-27J was being retired from the Afghan Theatre.

The Department of Defense (DoD) claims that operation and maintenance (O&M) costs for the C-27J are too high to maintain.  DoD makes this claim based on its own numbers using assumptions that the program has been terminated.  This accounting formula naturally, and falsely, raises the O&M costs of the existing fleet.   In addition, the alleged cost savings come from contracting out to private companies the airlift work the C-27J previously performed.  Nowhere has DoD shown that contracting costs are less than using the C-27J. Furthermore, the Department has not shown that private contractors are equal to the task of our men and women in uniform.

Eliminating C-27Js could also have unintended consequences regarding the safety and effectiveness of our deployed servicemembers, while simultaneously increasing the costs of transporting troops and delivering supplies to remote areas all around the globe.

The C-27J’s comparatively low operating costs and critical supply and operating functions cannot be replicated by other older aircraft or private contractors.   It costs almost five times more to operate a CH-47, per hour, than it does to operate the C-27J.  Contract aircraft are inherently and substantially more costly than the C-27J.  Given that the CH-47 and contract aircraft will now have to conduct current C-27J missions, the cost-effectiveness of this decision should be revisited. 

Congress has been clear that DoD must show its math before making any decision regarding the C-27J. I ask that you work with me to identify responsible ways to meet the Air Force’s mission requirements under these tough fiscal times without jeopardizing the C-27J program. 


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