Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nancy Pelosi's 757: Security, Common Sense, and Getting the Facts Straight

'Everybody knows' that Speaker of the House demanded - and got - a 757 to fly her back and forth to her home in San Francisco. With a $5,000,000-plus annual cost that taxpayers pick up.

This flagrant lack of fiscal responsibility and disregard for the perils of global warming and the disappearing spotted owl is:
  • Shocking!
  • Wasteful!
  • Un-green!
  • Partly true

Pelosi, 9/11, Security: Reality Check, Please!

It's a fact: Speaker of the House Pelosi does use a C-32 for traveling from Washington, D.C., and back. And, it's at taxpayer expense.

But, I think it's reasonable - and responsible.

Besides, I did some simple math, and found that, as an American taxpayer, and assuming that the expense is distributed evenly, Pelosi's jet costs me about two cents a year. That's $0.02 USD.

Even these days, I can afford that.
A Personal 757: That's Responsible?!
For starters, it isn't a 757. It's a C-32, a military version of Boeing's 757.

(from FAS, used without permission)
I don't get to use a jet like that: Why should Nancy Pelosi?

The first Boeing C-32A, intended for the presidential airlift fleet, rolled off the assembly line in 1998. They look a bit like the commercial 757-200, but they are not the same airplane:

757-200 C-32A
Passengers up to 239 45
Information technology In-flight movies Advanced telephones

Other commercial amenities Television monitors

Facsimile and Copy machines

Tacan military navigation equipment

Military Identification Friend/Foe transponder

UHF satellite communications radio

Secure voice and data transmission capability

Passenger flight information display system airing videos and broadcasting real-time global positioning on a moving world map

(Sources: FAS, Boeing)

Most air travelers don't need that kind of technology when they fly, but most air travelers aren't the American president or members of the cabinet.

After 9/11 made the American Congress a bit more personally aware of security issues, the House Sergeant at Arms, Bill Livingood, seems to have been the one who recommended the C-32A. 1

Whoever the Speaker of the House is, that person becomes president if something very bad happens to the president and the vice president. Having someone in that position take commercial flights across the North America continent might save a few bucks, but it wouldn't be particularly safe: Not for the Speaker, and not for anyone riding on the same airliner.

Like it or not, America is at war: and high-level officials are targets.

So yes: it makes good sense to put the Speaker of the House on a military transport that's equipped with specialized information technology. And, that can fly from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco without landing.

The reason for the house speaker getting special treatment has been public knowledge since February, 2007:
  • "...'The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making nonstop flights for security purposes, unless such an aircraft is unavailable,' [House Sergeant at Arms] Livingood said in a statement. 'I regret that an issue that is exclusively considered and decided in a security context has evolved into a political issue.'..."
    (CBS News (February 9, 2007))
  • "...House Sergeant at Arms Bill Livingood, who is responsible for the speaker's security, advised Pelosi in December that the Air Force had made an airplane available to her predecessor. But because her congressional district is in California, Pelosi and her aides said she needs a larger plane that can fly coast to coast without refueling. The C-32 she requested is about the size of a Boeing 757-200 and has seating for 42 on it...."
    (FOXNews (February 8, 2007))
  • "...Navy Cmdr. Jefrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, said Wednesday that Pelosi would be offered 'shuttle service for no more than 10 passengers between Washington and San Francisco only based on aircraft availability.'..."
    (FOXNews (February 8, 2007))
The problem is, members of the public have to read about it.

I don't know how the House Sergeant at Arms and the Pentagon worked out the details, but the bottom line is this: the Speaker of the House is the American president if someone manages to take out the president and the vice president. I'd just as soon go a little overboard in keeping the speaker safe.

I do know that the story of Pelosi and the 757 is still around. Parts of it, at least.

Politics, Reality, and Pelosi's 757

I've been over this before: assumptions aren't facts. Rumors, or what you heard from some guy, may be true: but they may not be, too.

This story about Nancy Pelosi's 757 came up this month, in a 'letter to the editor.' It read, in part, "...I agree that these companies do not need one corporate jet, much less nine. But how can Ms. Pelosi tell these executives to fly commercial when she has a 757 to travel back and forth to California at taxpayers' expense?" ( (December 5, 2008)).

I'm no fan of Pelosi's political views, but the car company executives aren't the speaker of the house. As important as the auto industry is, if an airliner they were on blew up it wouldn't have quite as big an impact on America. And, it's not as likely that Al Qaeda or terrorist wannabes would try to take out some CEO.

So, that's how Ms. Pelose can tell these executives to fly commercial while she (sometimes) flies in a 757.

Which is actually a C-32A.

Sometimes, Voters Scare Me

Sometimes, when I read about, or hear, someone whose connection to this space-time continuum is shaky, I wonder if that person will vote.

A resource I put on the blogroll wrote: "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts...." ( Sometimes, I tell myself that the crackpots who really believe that the CIA blew up New York's World Trade center, and the ones who think a secret cabal of liberals, Catholics, Masons, and Jesuit assassins are behind America's problems, cancel each other out.

News and views: Background:
1 An interview aired on Fox News this morning got me started on this post. The interviewee said, among other things, that the recommendation for using a C-32A came from the House Sergeant at Arms. News published at the time seems to back that up.


Anonymous said...

Nancy Pelosi: I just received an email about Nancy Pelosi and the 757 and as a Democrat, was floored.Now that I've read the true story,I understand.I hope she doesn't run back and forth every week like the email suggested!If you accept a job in Washington,then you should live there most of the time.Don't take advantage of the tax ppyers!

Brian H. Gill said...


I'm afraid you'll be getting emails about Nanci Pelosi and the 757 for quite a while.

I'm not sure I agree, though: I live in Minnesota, and would just as soon that Minnesota senators come back to the land of shovel and swat at not-infrequent intervals, to get reminded of why we sent them inside the Beltway.

Anonymous said...

Just a point that everyone should be aware of:
A Gulfstream could easily be used instead of
a 757 if it's range that is the issue.

Saying that they needed the 757 since it is the
only thing with enough range is absurd. A G5, or
military version c37a can not only make it DC from
San Francisco non-stop- it could make it there and
back without landing WITH fuel reserves!

-Professional Airline Pilot

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.