Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Army Secretary John McHugh urged lawmakers to keep the MC-12W Liberty fleet with the Air Force. In a letter to Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, the two service Secretaries “strongly recommend the Congress not incorporate” a provision in the final version of the Fiscal 2012 defense authorization bill that would transfer these manned ISR aircraft to the Army. The MC-12s would replace the land service’s RC-12 Guardrail platforms. Among their arguments, Donley and McHugh said they’re convinced that the transfer “would be disruptive to ongoing military operations” since MC-12s are “relied upon daily by US and coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to identify, track, and locate terrorists and Taliban forces.” Further, Liberty aircraft, which provide full-motion video and signals intelligence, would require “extensive internal aircraft modifications” to conform to Guardrail’s different mission set—tethered communications/electronic intelligence, they wrote in their Sept. 20 missive. The Senate’s draft bill included language calling for the transfer, while the House’s version did not, meaning lawmakers will decide this issue in conference.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.