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House Panel Adds C-17s: The House Armed Services Committee added $3.9 billion for the Air Force to procure an additional 15 C-17s in its mark-up of the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2009 spending plan May 14. It also added $523 million for the advance procurement of long-lead components for 20 additional F-22s and $495 million to keep the F-35’s competing F136 engine program alive. Rep. Ike Skelton, the committee’s chairman, made good on previous remarks that readiness was his top concern by earmarking nearly $2 billion toward the services’ unfunded readiness initiatives. This includes: $50 million for Air National Guard depot equipment maintenance, $60 million for Air Force Reserve depot equipment maintenance, and $34 million for the air sovereignty alert mission, according to the committee’s May 15 statement. The Senate did not provide funding for the C-17s in its mark-up April 30, but it did provide funding for the F136 as well as funding that may go toward the 20 additional F-22s. The House panel also reduced Airborne Laser funding by $42.6 million and provides no funds for a second ABL aircraft. Additionally, it slashed funding essentially in half for the Third Generation Infrared Surveillance program. The committee added language that will allow the Air Force to retire C-5 aircraft only after the service receives the 189th C-17 and there has been an in-depth cost analysis and certification that operational risk would not increase.