DEFENDING AMERICA
BY DAVID H. HACKWORTH
28 March 2000

THE HIGH FLYERS

Beautiful Guam didn't sink last week. But there were so many U.S. military aircraft at Andersen Air Force Base that the Pacific islanders and military folks stationed there thought the island just might go down like the Titanic.

No, this giant Air Force armada wasn't there for contingency purposes because of all the anti-American rhetoric blasting out of communist China. Nor to move U.S. combat troops to South Korea to reinforce our garrison in that land of never-ending conflict.

Their mission was solely to support Bill Clinton's diplomatic and goodwill trip to southern Asia.

An Air Force officer stationed on Guam says, "I saw more C-5A and C-17 aircraft here than I've ever seen in one place in my entire 15-year career."

The air fleet at Guam is but a portion of the total aircraft tasked to support the president and his humongous entourage of security and communications people and the various strap handlers who made up the most bloated traveling circus an American commander in chief has ever had. On this safari to the Taj Mahal and points east, even Clinton has outdone Clinton.

The officer says, "This boondoggle will cost the Air Force alone over $50 million and limit its ability to execute its regular operational missions. There are 354 scheduled airlift sorties to support this White House mission -- enough to transport two Army divisions with all their stuff anywhere on planet Earth."

When Clinton travels, he moves with a cast of thousands. A lifetime government employee who's never signed a payroll check except on the back, he clearly likes to do things big if he isn't personally picking up the tab. A conservative estimate is that his globe-trotting recklessness in the past eight years has cost the taxpayers pretty close to a cool billion bucks and along the way ripped the guts out of the Air Force air-transport fleet to boot.

Since Desert Storm, the fleet has flown its wings off on military operations all over the world in support of the Pentagon's nonstop Robo-Globo-Cop and Meals On Wheels lunacy. The air fleet is badly strained, and many veteran flyboys and girls say it's broken from trying to do too much with too little for too long.

Most of the aircraft are old and worn. The magnificent crews who fly and maintain these old dogs are equally burned out.

But as long as American citizens don't scream bloody murder, members of Congress -- who, by the way, very much enjoy Air Force VIP aircraft carting them around the world on their many junkets -- certainly won't do their due diligence.

Hopefully, the Air Force brass will rebel and ask Secretary of Defense William Cohen, who has a penchant for zipping around in plush military jets himself, to tell "Traveling Bill" to knock it off. Whoever sounds off first, citizens or brass, it's time we got rid of the flying spectacle that's stealing dollars from spare parts, taking funds away from war training and wasting bucks that could be used to get low-rankers off food stamps.

Bill's other half, Hillary Rodham Clinton, has the Air Force travel bug as well. For months, Hill's been whipping back and forth from Washington, D.C., to New York state one to five times a week via Air Force VIP Gulfstream jet. Aircraft-running expenses for one round trip is $5,096, not including costs for air and maintenance crews, a reinforced squad of Secret Service troops and an Air Force security sergeant with a bomb-sniffing dog.

For sure, the first lady's entitled to use military aircraft. But her travel these days seems mainly about working the system to get Candidate Clinton and supporters to New York for her shot at the U.S. Senate.

Several Air Force generals are having a hard time biting their tongues over her blatant abuse of military air assets and the attendant waste of tax dollars. My spies tell me it might not be long before a general roars, "Enough already. Take the Delta Shuttle for your political stuff and let the 89th Airlift Wing do its assigned job."

Congress needs to have a hard look at the high-flying Clintons and ground them before the people clip the wings of both the lawmakers and the Clintons in November.