It isn't common that the Pentagon gets to wrap Capitol Hill's knuckles, but the latest brouhaha over flying lawmakers and other VIPs in Gulfstream jets that Congress earmarked is too good not to call out. Here's Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell yesterday at the usual press briefing:
Q That's all right. The Air Force has apparently asked for a -- for Congress to approve money for a Learjet-type aircraft, an additional Learjet. And Congress --
MR. MORRELL: I think it's a Gulfstream. The jet?
Q Gulfstream, yeah. Sorry. And Congress approved, apparently, money for three of the aircraft. And now I'm hearing also that they had also asked for a seven forty -- a 737, and then Congress gave them money for two additional ones -- two additional aircraft. Did the Air Force need that many jets, if they were asking for, you know one apiece and they're given money for three? Is the fleet getting that outdated, that they --
MR. MORRELL: Yeah. What I would say to this, Mike is we ask for what we need and only what we need. And beyond that, I would direct you to speak to the Congress. If, indeed, this is something that has been added to the budget above and beyond our request, they're the ones who should answer to it. But we make it a point of asking for those things we need and nothing more.
And we've always frowned upon earmarks and additives that are above and beyond what we ask for, because inevitably we, in order to fund those or just, at least, sustain those after they are appropriated or -- we have to find money from elsewhere in the budget to support those new buys. So it comes at a cost to us, even if the up-front money is appropriated above and beyond what our budget request is.
Q Did the secretary -- (off mike) -- the --
MR. MORRELL: I don't -- I -- you know, listen, it's a -- it's an enormous budget, as you know. And I don't know that this specific line item, the additional Gulfstream jet, has come to his attention. His attention has been mostly focused on the items that he believes are red lines. The F-22 -- you know additional F-22s are clearly a red line for the secretary. An alternative F-35 engine is a red line for the secretary. The VH-71 program is a red line for the secretary.
So he's been focused on big-ticket items and, frankly, not an additional Gulfstream or two. That said, we ask for only what we need and nothing more, and the Congress will be the one who would best be equipped to answer why it is they've added additional Gulfstreams to the budget.
Q (Off mike) -- subject?
MR. MORRELL: Yeah.
Q You're talking about big spending, but this is $200 million, which is $150 million more than the initial budget request by the Air Force. I mean, isn't this a concern for the secretary that Congress is boosting its request for (things you don't need?), given that -- (off mike) -- language that specifically requests that two of the airplanes be based at Andrews -- (off mike)?
MR. MORRELL: I think -- Luis, I think I have addressed the range of concerns associated with this.
Q Are there serious concerns that maybe you won't accept this, that this becomes another red line?
MR. MORRELL: I don't want to -- I don't want to speak for the secretary. I know what his -- in terms of what may or may not become a red line. I know what his red lines are right now. I've communicated those to you, or at least some of them. I do not know this to be one. But as I said, Luis, anything that is above and beyond what we ask for comes at a price to us, maybe not in the up- front cost of purchasing that aircraft, but in terms of the follow-on maintenance and sustainability of that aircraft, that comes out of our budget and we've got to find dollars elsewhere for programs that are needed in order to fund one that is excess to our needs.