Tester introduces bipartisan bill to provide critical upgrades to MANGs C-130 fleet
Senator fights against efforts to hamstring the Air Force
(U.S. Senate) - After several meetings with senior Pentagon officials and consultation with the Montana National Guard, Senator Jon Tester announced he is introducing bipartisan legislation to ensure the Montana Air National Guard (MANG)'s C-130 fleet receives the upgrades it needs to meet a 2020 deadline set by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Tester's announcement came at an Appropriations hearing today with senior officials from the National Guard and Reserves.
"My fear is we end up with a fleet of C-130's that is incapable of operating in domestic air space, and they will end up sitting on a runway somewhere until they are mothballed." Tester said during today's hearing. "So I'm going to be introducing a bipartisan piece of legislation."
Tester's bill will give the Air Force the budgetary flexibility it needs to implement critical safety and compliance upgrades to C-130s in a cost-effective manner that better ensures they will meet new 2020 airspace requirements.
Last year, Tester successfully included language in the Defense Authorization and Appropriations bills to increase flexibility for the Air Force to pursue C-130 modernization. But the Air Force has cited other legislation as a reason to continue exclusively using the Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) to modernize the fleet.
At today's hearing, Tester pressed Air National Guard Director, Lieutenant General Stanley Clarke, on the failure of AMP to upgrade MANG's C-130 fleet.
Lt. General Clarke confirmed that AMP, which was implemented in 2001 and has cost taxpayers over $1.5 billion, has failed to successfully deliver a single operation C-130.
"I look forward to working to ensure the Air Force has the flexibility and the tools it needs to keep our C-130s operable." Tester said. "There are others, many of whom take every opportunity to decry government spending, who want the Air Force to pursue the more costly route that ensures we don't meet any of these upcoming deadlines."
"It is critically important for the Montana Air National Guard's C-130 fleet to remain fully mission capable to fly unrestricted across our nation and overseas as they accomplish both their state and federal missions." said Major General Matt Quinn, Adjutant General for Montana, "Senator Tester's resolve to ensure our aircraft meet all current safety requirements and future compliance regulations will safeguard our National Guard's ability to remain ready when the citizens of our state and nation need our Airmen the most."
Tester's bipartisan bill has the support of National Guard officials, will ensure taxpayers dollars are spent in a more responsible manner, and gives the Air Force the spending flexibility it needs to better ensure the 2020 FAA deadline is met.
Tester's bill, which is cosponsored by Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.):
• Repeals a provision in the 2015 Defense Authorization Act that imposes a penalty on the Air Force if it does not proceed with the AMP program.
• Provides the Air Force the authority to undertake safety and compliance upgrades.
• Requires the Secretary of the Air Force to work closely with the FAA Administrator to meet safety and compliance deadlines required by the FAA.
Earlier this year Tester questioned the Air Force Secretary on the timeline to modernize MANG's C-130 fleet.