Wednesday, May 09, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Keep AMPs, Griffin insists

There have been times in Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) short tenure in Washington when he seems to be grandstanding, which may be the case again this week, but it does make sense and he gets an “atta boy” for talking the talk.

The talk is about the upgrade program for C-130s. He wants it continued, the Air Force doesn’t, but it looks like he’s going to win, at least for now.

Griffin has made it clear he doesn’t want to cancel the current Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) until the Air Force shows him the cost benefits of the alternative plans.

The Pentagon wants to permanently chock the wheels on the decades-old, but just-being-implemented AMP, designed to bring aging C-130s into the 21st century with a digital cockpit and replace it with a less-ambitious, less-expensive upgrade.

Despite the Air Force’s original plans to install AMP kits on more than 220 C-130s, the Defense Department’s proposed 2013 budget closes out the C-130 AMP conversion policy after upgrading just five aircraft.

The Air Force needs to refit older C-130s with the needed electronics and avionics technology to keep the planes flying. The military must modernize its communications and navigation systems on the legacy C-130s to meet FAA standards and European standards or the planes will be excluded from many of the best and most efficient air lanes.

It is an expensive proposition, $7 to $10 million per plane with a total program cost nearing $5.8 billion.

The Air Force says that’s too much to spend, and that there are cheaper things to do to the aircraft, including sending the planes out to the bone yard.

It may be a lot of money, but new C-130Js are running about $60 million each.

Griffin said in a news release this week that he fought to include language in this year’s defense bill “that will ensure continued funding for the C-130 AMP until a full cost-benefit analysis can be finalized and reviewed by Congress. We owe it to the service members at Little Rock Air Force Base and the hardworking taxpayers of Arkansas to ensure that the right decision is made.”

The defense bill is expected to pass the Armed Forces Committee this week, with Griffin’s proposal intact and will be referred to the full House for further consideration. The Democratic-controlled Senate is another story.

So congrats to Griffin for pushing uphill on this issue. Griffin, along with most Republicans on the Hill, are flexing their muscle on any defense cuts. It plays well during an election year, but in reality, there is pork, waste and abuse in the defense budget, and some programs need to be cut.

Still, the longer the AMP program stays alive, the more Little Rock Air Force Base benefits.