Shotgun Wedding

An Army-Air Force feud has spread outside the Pentagon’s hallowed halls to Capitol Hill, where lawmakers seem to be a little bit too involved.

The debate surrounds the purchase of the Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA). Though originally developed by the Army as the Future Cargo Aircraft (FCA), DoD mandated a shotgun wedding of sorts and directed the Army to join forces with its Air Force brethren and merge the FCA and the Air Force’s Light Cargo Aircraft under a single program. So, they drew up an agreement, and presto! The stuff of fairytales.

Sadly, the marriage is over (irreconcilable differences?), and there was no pre-nup. The Air Force wants complete control of the program, including the money marked for the Army. Sources say this movement also gained momentum on the Hill, pushed by a single staffer. (Cue galloping horses.) Lawmakers now seem poised to hand the flight controls of the JCA to the Air Force, along with the all the funds.

Lawmaker reasoning: This is an Air Force mission.

But the Army has cried foul.

While much of the cargo-flying gig falls to the Air Force, the Army has its “organic airlift needs” and flies what’s called “the last tactical mile.” It needs a plane that can get its wings dirty, and it seems the C-27J is that plane. This is not a part of the Air Force mission, according to Army officials.

Air Force leaders (including Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Mosley) have pledged the Army’s needs for the aircraft would be met under the proposed arrangement. But the Army’s not buying it (Air Force assurances, that is. Big surprise.) and is working ‘round the clock to “inform” (they certainly would NEVER lobby) lawmakers. Sources say it’s been an uphill battle.

It appears the Air Force might have its eye more on its waning relevance in the tactical world than on who needs the JCAs.

So, what’s the deal with Congress on this one?

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