There is a Connection

Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, despite a statement earlier this week by a member of his Joint Staff, does believe there is a relationship between the size of the strategic airlift fleet and the expansion of ground forces. Vice Adm. Steve Stanley told reporters during the defense budget rollout Feb. 4 that the two are “not directly related.” Perhaps he misspoke. Certainly, his boss, Mullen, left no doubt that he can see the connection. Mullen told Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.) that his question about how much more airlift will be needed “is a legitimate question that we don’t have an answer to yet.” And, he, for one, wants to approach discussion of shutting down the C-17 production line “very judiciously,” considering the “challenges we’ve got” with US forces “in the middle of two wars.” And, we’ve learned that the Fiscal 2009 war supplemental request will include 14 C-17 airlifters, justified by the massive amount of flying hours the fleet has racked up thus far in the war on terror. According to Pentagon officials, the move is also seen as a way to buy time for the Air Force to sort out the air mobility situation. The supplemental likewise may include more tactical C-130Js.