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    Boeing Says C17 Production Could End In Mid-2009 Unless Congress Orders More Planes

    (August 18, 2006) -- The Boeing Co. has announced that production of the giant C17 military cargo/transport aircraft could end at its LB plant in mid-2009 unless Congress provide firm orders for more C17's.

    USAF Photo

    "Due to the lack of U.S. government orders for the C-17 military cargo aircraft, The Boeing Company is directing program suppliers to stop work on uncommitted airplanes. This move will be the first step in an orderly shut down of the production supply chain should no further orders be received from the U.S. government," Boeing said in a statement reported on's front page ( minutes after its August 18 morning release.

    The company noted that the action would "ultimately affect the 5,500 Boeing jobs in California, Missouri, Georgia, and Arizona, directly tied to the C-17, and the program's nationwide supplier workforce that totals more than 25,000 people. Nearly 700 companies in 42 states provide parts and services that go into each C-17...The stop-work orders affect long-lead items from suppliers that, in many cases, are built 34 months before a C-17 is delivered. Boeing is re-evaluating the financial impact should the U.S. government not order additional C-17s, and may incur costs aside from any recovered from the U.S. government."

    Boeing is LB's largest employer with 9,175 employees as of May 2005. LBUSD ranks second with 9,050 workers; the City of LB is third with 5,749. (Data source: Proposed FY 07 LB City Budget, p. 5).

    Reaction came quickly. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., CA) emailed the following statement:

    I am a big believer in the C-17 transport, which has been essential to our combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with our global fight against terror and international human relief efforts.

    It is unfortunate that the Air Force and the Administration have not been clear with regard to their future plans for additional C-17 production. They have, instead, sent mixed messages -- happy to let the Congress do what is necessary to buy more aircraft, but unwilling to make the difficult budget decisions to ensure that production continues.

    This is unfair to the thousands of Californians, and other people, employed in the manufacture of this outstanding aircraft.

    Boeing has significant financial exposure from their orders of ‘long lead time’ parts for C-17’s from their suppliers. Lacking a commitment from the Air Force to purchase additional C-17s – which many at the Pentagon indicate are needed, Boeing has made the decision to reduce its potential losses.

    I will work closely with my colleagues in Congress to advocate on behalf of the C-17 program. It would truly be a shame to prematurely close down production of one of the great ‘workhorses’ of our military.

    The Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee has chosen to fully fund the procurement of 12 C-17 transport aircraft in the FY07 Defense Appropriations bill, along with an additional three C-17s as part of the $50 billion ‘bridge fund’ for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    In addition, the Subcommittee strongly voiced its support for the continued production of C-17s by including report language directing the Department of Defense to request funding for the program in FY08.

    Air Force Chief of Staff General Moseley has reiterated a number of times that the C-17 has been ‘worth its weight in gold,’ flying at an estimated 60 to 70 percent above projections in intra-theater lift missions in the Middle East. Moreover, it has the highest reliability and mission capable rate of any aircraft in its class. Though comprising just 55 percent of the current strategic airlift fleet, the C-17 is flying 80 percent of all strategic airlift missions.

    As the most versatile and flexible transport in the U.S. military today, the C-17 is critical to the forward deployment of troops and cargo, can perform airlift and airdrop missions, and has been a vital component of aero-medical evacuations.

    It should also not be forgotten that the C-17 has a number of capabilities pertaining to peacekeeping and humanitarian relief. The aircraft was a welcome site to those affected by the tsunamis in Asia, and the hurricanes along the Gulf Coast.

    It remains critical that the Air Force sustain the future of the C-17 program by supporting additional aircraft in the FY08 budget request. I am disappointed that no commitment has been forthcoming.

    L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe, who represents LB and southeast L.A. County, emailed the following statement:

    While I am disappointed by today’s announcement, I also know we are far from the end of the fight to save the C-17. Boeing must give its suppliers 34-36 months advance notification if it intends to end contracts and shutdown production of the C-17. I consider today’s announcement simply one initial step in what might potentially lead to a shutdown. 36 months is a long time and many things could happen in that time to reverse the fate of the program. The C-17 has already proven that it is essential not only to the military, but also to homeland security and disaster response.

    Obviously the nation does not have the supply of C-17’s that it truly needs, otherwise, the C-17 would not be operating at 186-percent capacity, as it is right now.

    Besides the huge potential hit the economy would take from the loss of 6,500 jobs at the Boeing plant in Long Beach, shutting down the C-17 could prove a costly error for National Security. Mistakes have been made in the past from shutting down aircraft production lines and we must make sure we do not make the same mistake again. Shuttering the C-17 plant means the United States would lose its last defense cargo aircraft production facility.

    It is now up Congress and the Department of Defense to provide funding for what the nation already knows: we need this plane. It is critical for the future of this program to continue with a commitment of additional anticipated funding. It is my hope that President Bush will step in to make that commitment a reality.

    As previously reported by, on November 29, 2005 a LB delegation which included then-Mayor Beverely O'Neill, then-Councilman Frank Colonna and Councilman Tonia Reyes Uranga travelled to Washington, D.C. and joined with Cong. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D., Carson-LB) in urging Pentagon brass to order more C17s. The delegation met with Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne , who answers to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld who answers to President Bush. .

    A written release issued by City Hall after the meeting quotes Congresswoman Millender-McDonald as saying, "We asked Secretary Wynne to find ways to secure funding for Boeing’s C-17 program for the sake of national security and economic viability in Southern California and throughout the nation. The C-17 aircraft have played an important role in the nation’s defense capabilities, and as a result, has fostered national and regional economic impacts of more than $8.4 billion."

    USAF photo and caption text: "Three U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft offload tons of equipment at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., on Aug. 31, 2005, for use in support of relief operations. Department of Defense units are mobilizing as part of Joint Task Force Katrina to support the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster-relief efforts in the Gulf Coast areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina."
    Mayor O'Neill, then-president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said at the time: "In addition to the loss of jobs in Long Beach and other cities that support that C-17 program, we believe that it is a national security oversight to cease production of the C-17 aircraft." She said losing the C-17 program would be a "disaster."

    Today's announcement made national news. Reuters: Boeing May End C-17 Cargo Plane Production in 2009.

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