If war breaks out tomorrow on the other side of the world, how will our troops get to the battlefield? The answer may surprise you. It turns out that in the event of a major conflict, many of our brave men and women in uniform will fly to the fight on commercial jets.
That might seem problematic, but as veterans, we think it’s actually a good thing.
It doesn’t make sense for our military to maintain the airlift capacity necessary to transport tens of thousands of troops thousands of miles away. Instead, the Pentagon depends on U.S. airlines to make their planes available during times of war through the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) program.
In fact, when Congressman Gallego deployed to Iraq as a young Marine, he flew over on a CRAF flight.
Unfortunately, this critical capability – and potentially thousands of American jobs – are now at risk because of a misguided decision by the General Services Administration (GSA) to permit foreign outsourcing of airline contracts for government travel. But to understand why, you first need to understand how the CRAF program works.
Airlines are currently incentivized to participate in CRAF because doing so makes them eligible for the lucrative business of flying government employees through the GSA City Pairs program. Under President Reagan, the federal government struck a simple deal with the airlines – provide your planes to the military in its hour of need and, in return, you’ll get to compete for contracts to transport federal employees.
Unfortunately, GSA recently decided to allow air carriers without long-haul aircraft to bid on long-haul flights by partnering with foreign airlines. American carriers get the contracts but foreign aircraft and foreign aircrews actually do the flying. Already, these overseas airlines are receiving millions of U.S. tax dollars to fly U.S. government employees on nine international routes.
We strongly believe GSA erred in permitting this practice, and not just because we’re concerned about the loss of American jobs. From a military perspective, GSA’s decision creates a clear disincentive for U.S. airlines to make their large aircraft available to the CRAF program. Why should American carriers agree to commit their most expensive assets to the Department of Defense at a moment’s notice if their competitors don’t face the same obligation?
In time, we fear major domestic airlines will decide it simply no longer makes good business sense to participate in CRAF. Then, the Pentagon will be forced to wrestle with more costly, less efficient options for ensuring that large numbers of U.S. troops can still be deployed to the other side of the globe in a timely manner.
Luckily, unlike most of the pressing issues before the House of Representatives, this problem has an easy fix. Congress should simply specify that GSA can’t contract with an airline to fly a particular route unless that airline actually owns or has operational control of the planes to fly it. This common-sense reform would prevent the needless loss of American jobs and eliminate a clear long-term threat to our military’s wartime airlift capacity.
Time is of the essence. Following GSA’s ill-advised decision and the subsequent loss of government business, American carriers are reevaluating whether to drop some of their international routes entirely. Now, at least one key route is no longer serviced by any of our domestic airlines. That’s unacceptable. We need to put our airline workers and our military first by ending foreign outsourcing of U.S. government travel.
Gallego and Paul CookPaul Joseph CookTrump on Super Tuesday 2018: ‘So much for the big Blue Wave’ Ratcheting up the pressure on Venezuela California GOP congressional candidate compared Parkland teens to Hitler MORE are members of the Armed Services Committee.