Rumsfeld expected to restore funding for cargo aircraft

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is expected to restore full funding for the Air Force's C-130J multiyear procurement contract, although the Department Department will not try to do so in the fiscal 2006 budget.

Although the Pentagon had proposed terminating the C-130J multiyear in its fiscal 2006 budget request, in a Tuesday letter to Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner, R-Va., Rumsfeld outlined the department's intent to complete the multi-year contract.

Sources said the department sees no need to submit a budget amendment to restore the funding in fiscal 2006. Instead, the Pentagon will work with OMB in the fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2008 budget requests to find offsets for the C-130J, according to a copy of the letter obtained by CongressDaily.

The letter from Rumsfeld was expected to be discussed during the Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee's second day of markup. The panel was continuing work on its $41 billion portion of the fiscal 2006 authorization bill early this afternoon before the full committee begins work on the $419 billion bill.

The subcommittee markup began late Tuesday and was extended to allow further debate on the C-130J and other programs, sources said. Sources speculated that Warner and Airland Subcommittee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., might question any Pentagon proposal to restore the C-130J funding, particularly if it would mean reducing the $1.1 billion in fiscal 2006 funds proposed to purchase 12 Marine Corps KC-130J tanker aircraft. One source said any proposed decrease in the K-C130J purchase likely would be met with opposition, noting the growing perception among lawmakers of increasingly poor management of Marine Corps programs.

While the Pentagon's decision to terminate the C-130J multiyear contract proposed in the fiscal 2006 budget was based on information available to department planners in December 2004, sources said new information regarding the contract's termination costs has since come to light. C-130J advocates, including Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., say terminating the multiyear program could cost between $1 billion and $2 billion, though critics of the program assert the cost would be less than half a billion dollars. The Lockheed Martin C-130J is assembled in Marietta, Ga.

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