Pentagon Rejects Speaker Pelosi's Request for Military Aircraft
Feb. 7, 2007 — -- A source close to the controversy over the request made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., for use of a military plane that can fly to and from her home district in San Francisco without having to stop to refuel, told ABC News that the Pentagon has rebuffed Pelosi's request.
The source said that Pentagon officials and the Bush administration have instead offered Pelosi use of the same plane made available to former Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.: a C-20, which seats about 12 passengers and five crew members.
A C-20 can make the 700-mile flight to Hastert's Aurora, Ill., district easily but would generally have to stop to refuel to complete the 2,800-mile trip from Washington, D.C. to the San Francisco Bay Area, depending on the headwinds.
Pelosi has expressed concern about having to stop and refuel, primarily for security reasons, her office said. Since 9/11, the speaker of the House -- second in line behind the vice president to succeed the president -- has received what the Air Force refers to as "shuttle service," the use of military planes to travel for security reasons. Hastert used a C-20, the military version of the Gulf Stream 3 business jet, a twin-engine turbo-fan aircraft that seats 12 passengers with a crew of five.
Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. J.D. Gordon outlined the rules and restrictions governing Speaker Pelosi's use of the C-20:
In response to the Pentagon's offer, Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly told ABC News, "We appreciate the Defense Department's continuing concern for the speaker's security. We are reviewing their letter."
Earlier today, Pelosi responded to Republican critics who have accused her of making unreasonable demands on the Pentagon for a luxurious airplane her Republican predecessor never requested.
"I want an aircraft that will reach California," Pelosi told reporters Wednesday afternoon, insisting that she doesn't care what kind of plane it is as long as it can fly nonstop to her home district.
Pelosi said news reports suggesting that she seeks a lavish jet suggest a "misrepresentation that could only be coming from the administration. One would wonder why the practice deemed to be necessary from a security standpoint would be mischaracterized in the press. I know that it's not coming from the president, because he impressed upon me the amount of security I need to have."
Because the C-20 generally would need to stop and refuel to make it all the way to the Bay Area, Pelosi requested a plane that could make it to California without having to stop along the way, and asked for clarification from the Pentagon about whether friends and colleagues could accompany her.
Various Republican officials in recent days have claimed that Pelosi has requested a C-32 plane for her travels -- a luxurious and specially configured version of the Boeing 757-200 commercial intercontinental airliner. The plane seats 45 passengers with business-class accommodations and a crew of up to 16, depending on the mission. It features a communications center, a fully enclosed stateroom for the primary passenger, a changing area, a conference facility, an entertainment system, and a convertible divan that seats three and folds out to a bed. The C-32 can cost as much as $22,000 an hour to operate. It's normally used by the first lady, the vice president, Cabinet officials and members of Congress upon request.
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