Pentagon officials were privately upset that a member of Congress sought to arrange separate military transportation for members of the Congressional Black Caucus to travel together to the funeral of Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, to be held Monday in Los Angeles.
One member of the caucus, who was not identified further, asked the Army through private channels to host the travel to Los Angeles solely for caucus members. Mrs. McDonald, a member of the caucus and a California Democrat, died last weekend.
After questions were raised about the separate flight by the Pentagon, Mrs.
Pelosi’s office declined the request for a separate aircraft for the caucus.
Officials close to the dispute said the caucus member sought the separate aircraft because he prefers to travel with Army hosts and sought to use his personal contacts to arrange for the plane.
Tiana Barrett, a spokeswoman for the caucus, said the group made no separate request for military aircraft through its chairman, Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Michigan Democrat.
Nadem Elshami, a spokesman for Mrs. Pelosi, said a congressional delegation to California is being organized by the sergeant-at-arms and that two aircraft are said to be available. However, Mr. Elshami said he was unaware of the dispute over the aircraft, or of the separate request for an Army plane for the caucus.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman dismissed the dispute as “mischief” by someone.
“The department has been in contact with the speaker’s office since the death of the member,” he wrote in an e-mail. “We have offered unqualified support and have two aircraft that seat 46 and 36 members, respectively. We had one airplane for Saturday but the funeral changed to Monday. We were told that there were 50 members slated to travel, which is why we obtained the second plane.” The Pentagon, he said, “never refused aircraft support for this mission.” The issue of military travel is especially sensitive for the House speaker, whose request for a military jet that could fly nonstop from Washington to her home district of San Francisco was rejected by the Pentagon in February.
F-22s to Japan A senior White House National Security Council (NSC) official said this week that the United States is ready to sell advanced warplanes to Japan but declined to endorse sales of the ultramodern F-22 warplane. The issue is expected to be raised in the summit meeting between President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week.
“We are very positively disposed to talking to the Japanese about future generation fighter aircraft,” said Dennis Wilder, the NSC staff Asia director.
However, Mr. Wilder said that “whether it’s going to be one model or another of aircraft is an open question at this point.” “It’s something for the experts to look at, to figure out which of the many superb aircraft we have suit Japan’s needs most,” he said. “So I think really, that will be a question for the experts.” A defense official said Mr. Wilder privately opposes the sale of the F-22 to Japan because it likely would upset China.
Japan is said to be ready to purchase up to 100 F-22s, a fifth-generation fighter-bomber that has radar-evading stealth capabilities.
The Air Force would like to sell the plane to U.S. allies, including Japan, because greater production numbers would lower costs. However, congressional restrictions prohibit foreign sales of the aircraft and would need to be lifted before exports to Japan can take place.