Notes from the Sausage Factory: C-130J -- Healthy or Rancid Pork?
October 27, 1998
Discussion Thread: #154 "Front-Loading the C-130J ... What Does "Protecting the Industrial Base Really Protect?"
 Jeffrey Record, "The C-130 Flap: Much Ado About Not Much: There is healthy pork and there is rancid pork." Defense Week October 19, 1998. Excerpts attached.
 Franklin C. Spinney, "Even Good Pork Can Turn Rancid," Defense Week (Letter to the Editor) October 26, 1998, pp. 2-3. Attached.
In Reference 1, Jeffrey Record argues that the recent Congressional action to add C-130Js to the Defense Budget is an example of the healthy consequences of porkbarreling. Reference 2 is my rebuttal which argues that a long history unrequested congressional add-ons turned a gourmet tenderloin into a rancid porkchop.
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The C-130 Flap: Much Ado About Not Much: There is healthy pork and there is rancid pork.
But there is healthy pork and rancid pork. Context is essential to understanding twenty-one years of C-130 add-ons.
A "meddling" Congress also compelled the Air Force to buy the A-10 tank-buster aircraft, another star performer of the Gulf War.
Indeed, the military's superb organizational performance during the Gulf War was attributable in no small measure to the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act of 1986, which had to be rammed down the throats of Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Pentagon, in short, does not always know best.
But the add-ons also benefited the national interest. Moreover, the Air Force quickly came to understand the obvious: Why budget for new C-130s when you are going to get them, in effect, free of charge from Capitol Hill?
Jeffrey Record, author of the recently published The Wrong War, Why We Lost in Vietnam and a former member of the Senate Armed Services Committee staff, is media consultant to Lockheed Martin, which manufactures the C-130.
Even Good Pork Can Turn Rancid Defense Week (Letter to the Editor)
Jeffrey Record, a media consultant to Lockheed-Martin, says the Congressional add-on of $482 million for of seven unrequested Lockheed-Martin C-130Js (at $69 million per copy) is good for defense. He justifies this statement by making a tortured distinction between healthy pork and rancid pork. His argument is based on the time-honored rhetorical trick of starting with obvious truths before segueing into a polemic.
Record is entirely correct when he says Congress has the constitutional right to add money to the defense budget. People who think Congress is not authorized to "meddle" in the Pentagon's budget would be well-advised to read Article 1 of the Constitution. He is also correct that Congress often adds things the Pentagon refuses to buy even though the forces need the equipment.
What he does not say, however, is that we in the Pentagon often we know Congress will add the unrequested item beforehand, and we game the system by using that knowledge to duck hard decisions in the expectation that Congress will give us a freebie. While this is a clever way of raising the budget surreptitiously, such gaming maneuvers tie Congress and the Pentagon into a minuet that debases the national security policy formulation process and cynically manipulates the electorate.
Record next descends into polemics by introducing an wild irrelevancy. He argues that it is in the national interest to give the Pentagon more C-130Js as a compensation for Congress's pusillanimity in closing bases. If one generalizes from this conclusion, he is saying that it is in the national interest to have a never-ending escalation of compensatory budget increases when those charged with making decisions are afraid or refuse to make a decisions.
Paradoxically, the C-130H is a good example of how stuffing pork down the services' throat can turn good pork into rancid pork. He says Congress's force feeding of C-130Hs into the Pentagon's budget during the 1970s and 1980s was in the national interest. What he does not say is how much those C-130Hs cost. An historical examination of the C-130 production since 1960 shows why his process of gradual escalation turns a gourmet meal into rancid pork.
Between 1961 and 1964, the Air Force bought 372 C-130Es. This plane performed valiantly in Vietnam, and many fliers consider it to be one of the finest airplanes ever built. After adjusting for the effects of inflation and expressing historical costs in today's dollars, the average cost of a C-130E declined from $13 million per copy in 1961 to $6 million in 1964. The C-130 production lined remained open for foreign sales, but the AF stopped buying them until 1969, when Congress appropriated the money for the first batch of 18 C-130Hs at a cost of $11 million per copy when expressed in today's dollars.
The "H" requires less maintenance and is a little faster but has essentially same capability as the "E." Record is indeed correct when he argues that Congress added money for most of the 173 C-130Hs bought for the Air Force or Air National Guard between 1969 and 1993. But unlike the C-130E, which declined in cost, the cost of the C-130H steadily increased over time, even though it remained essentially the same aircraft. By 1993, the last batch of C-130Hs cost $41 million, or 3.7 times as much in inflation-adjusted dollars as the same plane cost 24 years earlier.
According to a Lockheed-Martin brochure, the C-130J will have marginally more airlift capability than the C-130H, which was marginally different than the "E". It will, for example, have a 3.6% increase in cruise speed, a 2% heavier max payload, and a 28% increase in range when carrying max payload, but only a 1.5% range increase with a 25,000 pound payload.
On the other hand, the C-130J, at $69 million per copy, cost six times as much as the first C-130H or eleven times as much as the last C-130E.
Mr. Record said Congress served the national interest by force feeding C-130Hs into the Pentagon during the 1970s and 1980s. Well, a re-run of that service over the next 24 years will result in C-130Js costing $255 million per copy in 2022.
Instead of buying seven C-130Js, wouldn't it be better to use the $482 million to buy 43 of the 1969 model C-130Hs or 80 of the 1964 model C-130Es?
Of course, no one believes that the Lockheed Martin factory near Mr. Gingrich's house could do what they did in the 1960s, which brings us face to face with the true nature of pork -- force feeding C-130Hs into the Pentagon destroyed Lockheed-Martin's capability to produce C-130s economically, and that is why the C-130J at $69 million per copy is a rancid piece of pork.