About Those Luxury Pallets

The Air Force took a beating on the front page of the Washington Post on July 18, when that newspaper faulted the service for trying to spend anti-terrorism funds to buy plush travel amenities for brass traveling aboard military aircraft. As usual, there’s another side to the story. The pallets and capsules provide worktables, communications, and sleeping accommodations for VIPs who must travel to austere or hostile locations. Air Force officials pointed out that the demand for VIP travel has been high since 9/11, and USAF simply hasn’t had enough official VIP transports to satisfy high-ranking officials of the Administration, Congressional parties, and the military services needing to visit places like Afghanistan and Iraq. Complaints from Congress about the availability of appropriate airlift were piling up. Rather than buy more VIP airplanes, USAF decided to buy the interchangeable, roll-on, roll-off pallets and pods so that VIPs could travel on aircraft also delivering cargo, yet still be able to communicate, work, and rest at a comfort level comparable to a VIP aircraft. As a bonus, standard airlifters like the C-17 and C-130 attract less attention than the white VIP jets which say “United States of America” on the side. And the airlifters are equipped with defensive systems. Further, USAF said it downsized the comfort-pallet requirement when it was able to buy defensive systems for more VIP airplanes. The service saw the requirement as an unfunded mandate and because it supported a unique-to-the-war need, it sought global war on terror funds to pay for it. When Congress said no, USAF found the funds elsewhere. GWOT money was never used to pay for the comfort pallets, the Air Force said.