The B-1 Bomber: Less is More
(Source: Project On Government Oversight, POGO; issued Sept. 25, 2003)
Congress should not tamper with a cost-saving and sensible plan to cut 33 B-1 Bombers from the Air Force’s inventory, POGO’s Executive Director Danielle Brian said today.
The B-1, a Cold War era bomber originally designed to carry a nuclear payload, has been plagued with serious spare parts shortages, less-than-satisfactory mission readiness rates, and excessive maintenance costs. In addition, its eyes and ears, or avionics, have never worked.
Now, South Dakota Senators Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson are attempting to stop reduction of the B-1 fleet at 83 aircraft -- rather than allowing the fleet to shrink to 60 aircraft to Senator Daschle’s press release.
A total of 26 B-1 bombers are currently based at Ellsworth Air Force base in South Dakota, according to a recent GAO report.
“When he ordered the fleet reduction in 2002, Secretary Rumsfeld noted that the aircraft was not stealthy, and that the fleet reduction would cut costs and free up funds for next-generation weapons,” Brian said. “It’s a travesty for some Members of Congress to play pork-barrel politics at a serious cost to the taxpayers and our nation’s fighting men and women.” (ends)
Defense Bill to Include Provision to Preserve 23 B-1 Bombers
(Source: US Senator Tom Daschle; issued Sept. 22, 2003)
WASHINGTON, DC --- Senators Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Tim Johnson (D-SD) today announced that the final Defense Department Appropriations bill will include language preventing the Department of Defense (DOD) from decommissioning 23 B-1 bombers.
Daschle and Johnson said Ellsworth Air Force Base would be in an excellent position to serve as the home base for many of the re-commissioned aircraft. The Defense Appropriations bill is expected to be voted on by the Senate and the House of Representatives and then sent to the President later this week.
In June 2001, civilian leaders of the Defense Department announced a surprise plan to retire one-third of the nation's B-1 fleet, leaving just 60 planes. Under the terms of the new appropriations bill, the Air Force will receive an additional $17 million, allowing it to keep an additional 23 planes. The B-1 fleet would then consist of 83 planes.
Daschle and Johnson have been working to reverse the DOD's decision to retire the bombers. In May, the Senate passed an amendment offered by Daschle and Johnson to reverse a Department of Defense decision. After the authorization bill became stuck in the House-Senate conference committee, Daschle and Johnson urged the Appropriations committee to include language preserving the bombers in the Defense Department appropriations bill.
“This is a victory for Ellsworth Air Force Base, the Rapid City economy, and national security,” Daschle said. “I am pleased Senator Johnson and I were able to prevent the Department of Defense from implementing its irresponsible plan to retire these bombers. As we saw in Iraq and Afghanistan, the B-1 bomber remains a critical component of America's military strength.”
“The B-1's record proves it is a versatile and potent component of our military force structure. This funding will help keep the B-1 program alive and well. There's no reason to let these planes rust in the desert when they are such an important part of our national defense. I'm glad Senator Daschle and I were able to work on a project so vital to our state,” Johnson said.
Daschle and Johnson said the provision would rebuild our bomber fleet toward the level recommended in our last comprehensive review of bomber needs, the U.S. Air Force White Paper on Long Range Bombers.
That report determined that 93 B-1s were needed to protect U.S. national security interests until a replacement capability is available. The senators said their provision would take us to 83 B-1s, which is the most that can be realistically activated given the decommissioning work that is already well underway on some aircraft.