Murphy's Law: August 29, 2005


The latest round of proposed base closings in the United States has brought to light an embarrassing situation for the U.S. Air Force. There are too few airplanes to justify the number of bases in use. In the last three decades, the air force has lost more than half its aircraft. Its a trend thats been going on since World War II, and is expected to result in another third of the air force planes disappearing in the next two or three decades. In the last sixty years, aircraft have become safer, more reliable, more effective and much more expensive. Thus the trend towards fewer warplanes. The bad news is that, for decades, the air force has maintained support for itself, and its budget requests, by making sure that every state, or politically important population center, had an air force base. Most of these bases were National Guard or reserve units, sometimes just a few transports sharing a civilian airport with commercial users. The visibility was important, and the air force always took advantage of the fact that aircraft were, well, sexy, and an easy sell to the media. But now there are not enough aircraft to justify all those air bases. The latest round of  base closings asks for 23 National Guard bases to be stripped of all their aircraft. In three states, the governors are suing to keep the aircraft. You see, the air force did their PR job too well, plus governors dont like to lose the jobs required to keep those aircraft flying. But the air force cannot afford to support these older aircraft, and still buy new ones, like the F-22 and F-35. While the air force is willing to go ahead and do without the reserve units, the local governments are not. The issue is not just headed for the courts, but also Congress. In the past, the air force has been forced, by Congress, to buy and maintain aircraft it did not need (for political reasons), and it appears more of that is on the way.


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