Monday, March 13, 2006

More C-17s are Possible, Could Help Preserve Travis

More C-17s are Possible, Could Help Preserve Travis
By Ian Thompson

FAIRFIELD - The Air Force may need more than the 180 C-17s already approved and funded, Solano County supervisors reported after a lobbying trip to Washington D.C.

Travis Air Force Base is already slated to get a squadron of C-17 Globemaster III jet transports. Travis supporters hope if the military asks for more, Travis Air Force Base will get a second squadron, they said. More units on base help insulate Travis from closure.

Boeing is lobbying hard to expand the C-17 fleet because the aircraft manufacturer doesn't want to shut down its Southern California production line. If it did, about 6,500 people would lose their jobs. If the company doesn't get more orders, the line will shut down in a few years anyway.

The Air Force wants more C-17s because the current transport planes are aging faster than expected because of the multitude of missions supporting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Supervisor, Mike Reagan, a retired Air Force officer.

"The administration has understood the impact of the loss and has put an additional seven C-17s on the unfunded priority list," said Reagan, who just returned from Washington.

That means Congress now has the option to insert funding for these C-17s into the budget as it makes its way through Congress later this year.

Reagan attended a National Association of Counties legislative conference in Washington with Supervisor John Vasquez and County Administrator Michael Johnson.

The group spent part of its time meeting with aircraft officials as well as talking to members of Congress about issues affecting Travis Air Force Base and the county.

At present, Travis Air Force Base is slated to lose a C-5 squadron about the same time the C-17 squadron locates there.

Travis has room for more squadrons, whether C-17s or whatever next-generation air tanker squadron the military gets, supports said.

"The next generation of tankers may fit very nicely at Travis," Reagan said.

The group also discussed Air Force plans to allow private developers to build housing at Travis and then lease it back to the Air Force.

Those plans are on hold until it's determined who will run housing at McChord AFB, Wash., which may be managed by the Army at adjacent Fort Lewis.

The Air Force originally planned to bundle the contract to privatize some of Travis' housing with similar plans for McChord AFB and Fairchild AFB, Wash. Putting the Army in charge of McChord's housing has delayed the contracting.

"The contract may just be Travis and Fairchild," Reagan said.

Reach Ian Thompson at 427-6976 or at

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