- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 8, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

California’s Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer is not much of a pragmatist when it comes to the U.S. military. She consistently voted to end the war in Iraq long before the outcome was at all certain, supporting numerous measures to put rigid timelines for withdrawal of our troops in place regardless of conditions on the ground. She tried to thwart President Obama’s attempts to win the war in Afghanistan, opposing his efforts to put enough troops in the theater to accomplish the job. She famously berated a general who had the temerity to fail address her as “Senator,” instead following common military protocol and calling her “Ma’am.”

But there is one area where she has developed an affinity for the military and wants to ensure it has all the equipment she thinks it needs, and that is military air transport. She is a firm supporter of building as many Boeing C-17 Globemaster aircraft as she can get funded.

Given her proclivity for opposing any deployments of our forces, one wonders how she thinks the military should use them. In addition, the military leadership has made it abundantly clear that it doesn’t want any more C-17s. It is a fine aircraft, but it is not capable of carrying large armored vehicles, nor is it small enough to land at some of the airstrips in the isolated areas where our troops operate. In addition, the C-5M modernization program run by Lockheed Martin is capable of providing the kind of heavy-lift capability the military needs.

But that hasn’t stopped Mrs. Boxer and others from pushing through the purchase of these aircraft the past several years over the objection of Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and the service chiefs. Why is that, you ask? The C-17 is produced in California, and whatever her other issues with the military may be, Mrs. Boxer certainly is not against a little pork-barrel politics when it comes to a tough re-election fight.

She is in the midst of one now, with Carly Fiorina breathing down her neck. So she took a trip to Long Beach to beat the drum for the one military project she seems to be able to support consistently.

“I cannot tell you how proud I am that we have surpassed 200 planes and that this magnificent aircraft is being built right here in California by American workers,” she said. “The only place the C-17 should ever be built is in California.”

Thus far, political pressure has led to the Air Force owning 223 C-17s rather than the 205 it said it needed. Mr. Gates has stated that Mr. Obama will not sign any defense bill that contains more purchases of planes the military doesn’t need. Let’s hope the strength of our military trumps the political aspirations of one California senator.

B.A. Patty has gone to Iraq multiple times as a contractor and is a fellow of the Warrior Legacy Institute.

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