Obama cuts air force planes.. .. guess who is taking the brunt ??? Colorado.. No planes for fire fighting
Colorado's wildfire has exploded into an "epic firestorm," in the words of Colorado Springs
fire chief Richard Brown. Over 30,000 people have evacuated, and
already hundreds of homes have been consumed. Ironically, the U.S. Air
Force Academy has also been evacuated, at the very time that Colorado
desperately needs more Air Force C-130s to fight the massive fire.
A C-130 fitted with the Modular Airborne FireFighting System (MAFFS)
can drop 3,000 gallons of fire-retardant material in 5 seconds, and
reload in just 15 minutes. This tempo is crucial to containing wildfires
like the one devastating Colorado Springs. However, of a current fleet
of nearly 380 C-130s, only eight can be fitted with the MAFFS—and four
of them are already in the skies over Colorado. With another fire
looming in the north of the state, there is no excess capacity to help
protect civilian areas. That means thousands of exhausted firefighters
on the ground are without enough of the crucial support they need to
control the fires.
All this raises concerns about President Obama’s
defense budget, which cuts 65 C-130s from the fleet over the next four
years. While that will leave 318 C-130s, the demands on the fleet are
not shrinking in Afghanistan or other places. Nor did the Air Force have
much choice in the matter.
The Air Force took the brunt of Pentagon budget cuts
in the 2013 budget, shrinking by 4 percent (or roughly $4 billion
dollars), after having a flat budget since 2004. Since 2001, over 500
aircraft have been retired, and another 300 will be scrapped by 2017.
All this is happening while demand for the Air Force increases: The
service flew approximately 400 sorties per day in Afghanistan and Iraq
during 2011, while also fighting in Libya and delivering thousands of
tons of disaster relief aid to Japan after its earthquake and tsunami.
C-130s have been central to all these operations, and the proposed cuts
will reduce airlift capacity among all the Air Force's components:
active, reserve, and guard. Sequestration would be even worse, mandating
equal percentage cuts down to the program level across the service,
with no flexibility for Air Force leadership to target the cuts.
But as the wildfire in Colorado shows, readiness
and flexibility are sometimes needed at home as much as abroad. Cutting
more C-130s puts a greater strain on the entire Air Force fleet. It
means fewer planes will be available for possible conversion to the
MAFFS configuration. And that means that as hundreds of houses burn in
Colorado, only eight planes can be called upon to help the thousands of
firefighters on the ground. America should not have to make such
tradeoffs: We can fight both aggressors and fires smarter and better,
but only if we do it increasingly from the sky.
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