White House objects to extra C-17 planes

As the Senate turned to the fiscal 2010 Defense spending bill, the Obama administration on Friday objected to the decision by appropriators to add $2.5 billion to the measure for 10 C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft the Pentagon did not request.

When combined with the existing fleet of larger C-5 Hercules aircraft, the Defense Department's analysis has concluded that the 205 C-17s planned "are sufficient to meet the department's future airlift needs, even under the most stressing situations," according to the White House's Statement of Administration Policy.

While the SAP said the administration "strongly objects" to the aircraft add-ons, it stopped short of threatening to veto the bill because of it.

The Senate began consideration of the $636.3 billion spending bill on Thursday night, but no votes on amendments are expected until late Tuesday.

In its statement, the administration reiterated threats to veto the measure if it includes any funding for the F-22 Raptor fighter jet, an alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the VH-71 presidential helicopter -- all programs the Pentagon wants to end so it can shift resources to meet current and future war-fighting needs.

The Senate bill does not include any funding for those programs, but the House-passed version of the spending measure adds $560 million to continue the unwanted second engine and $485 million to make five initial VH-71 aircraft operational despite the administration's desire to cancel the helicopter program.

"The Congress is urged to oppose funding these programs during floor action and in conference," according to the statement.

The administration also raised concerns about Senate appropriators' decision to cut $900 million from the $7.5 billion requested for the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund. The committee determined the money would not be used until fiscal 2011 and would be better spent on buying additional Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.

"Accelerating the growth in size and capability of the Afghanistan national security forces is a key component of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan," the administration said. "The president's full request reflects his commanders' plan for Afghan forces to assume a greater share of responsibility for security as quickly as possible."

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