Letter to Congressional Leaders on Procurement of Aircraft for the Airlift Program

July 16, 1982

Dear Mr. Speaker:

One of my primary goals in restoring our defenses is to improve our capability to deploy forces rapidly to defend United States interests. Our airlift program as outlined in the FY 83 Budget will reduce the critical mobility shortfall.

The Congressionally Mandated Mobility Study (CMMS) recommended we increase our air cargo capability by about 25 million ton-miles per day, including at least 10 million ton-miles per day in ``outsize'' cargo capacity to accommodate critical combat equipment that will not fit on any existing aircraft except the C - 5. It is of paramount importance that, when needed, outsize equipment arrive in a timely manner and in a usable configuration. Reassembly of critical components at a forward staging area, as required using commercial aircraft, would limit our combat capability. Moreover, procuring commercial carriers would also require the expenditure of additional funds for modifications that would still not yield the needed outsize cargo capability.

Our proposed airlift program currently before the Congress includes four related components. First, we intend to buy 50 additional C - 5 aircraft to reduce quickly the critical shortfall in outsize capacity. Second, we will increase our air refueling/cargo capability by procurement of 44 KC - 10 aircraft. Third, we will expand the Civil Reserve Air Fleet Enhancement Program, under which domestically owned carriers can be used in time of need. Finally, we plan to use available FY 81 funds in the C - X program to continue research and development on the C - 17, thereby preserving the option of developing the C - 17 for procurement in the late 1980s to provide outsize capability and be a potential replacement for C - 130 and C - 141 aircraft. We believe this combination of actions is required to develop the aircraft capability we urgently require.

In summary, I hope you will agree that the Department of Defense should not be required to substitute commercial aircraft that do not meet our needs. There are no savings if what we buy will not do the job that needs to be done. Therefore, I urge you to reject the commercial aircraft proposal and support our airlift budget as submitted.

Sincerely,

Ronald Reagan

Note: The text of the letter was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on July 19.