Senators aim to derail Pentagon plans to scrap C-130J

An amendment to the emergency defense spending bill would prohibit funds from being spent to terminate the $4.1 billion contract for the aircraft.

The Senate could consider this week a move to block the Pentagon from spending any money to eliminate the C-130J heavy lift plane as part of the fiscal 2006 budget.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said Friday that he and fellow Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, along with 12 other senators, plan an amendment to the Pentagon's $80.6 billion emergency spending supplemental package needed to cover the cost of ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The amendment would prohibit funds from being spent to terminate the $4.1 billion C-130J contract with Lockheed Martin Corp., according to a statement released Friday.

Estimates indicate that it would cost $1.6 billion to terminate this program for the Air Force and the Marine Corps, according to Chambliss' statement.

The move is the latest attempt by C-130J advocates in Congress to thwart the Pentagon's plans to halt aircraft production of the plane next year, although some question whether the Pentagon plans to move forward with the cuts in the first place.

During testimony in February, Air Force Chief of Staff John Jumper said the costs of canceling the C-130J are expected to be higher than the Pentagon had initially estimated, and Pentagon insiders have hinted that the department likely will offer an amendment to the fiscal 2006 budget request that would restore funds for the C-130J program.

Last week, the Air Force announced a plan for improved oversight of the C-130J contract after service officials came under pressure from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to subject the deal to more traditional acquisition laws and regulations.