"The ability to project military power over great distances is a central tenet of the U.S. national military strategy and the massive military buildup before Operation Desert Storm (the 1991 war with Iraq) highlighted the value of strategic airlift. U.S. aircraft moved over 500,000 troops and 543,548 tons of cargo. Strategic airlift has also played a key role in recent conflicts. On April 10, 2003, the U.S. Transportation Command reported that it had exceeded its Operation Desert Storm airlift operations by flying 16,213 missions for the most recent war in Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)...Despite its importance, today's U.S. strategic airlift system is under stress. Over the past 10 years, the United States has reduced its Cold War infrastructure and closed two-thirds of its forward bases. Therefore, to maintain the same level of global engagement, U.S. forces must deploy more frequently and over greater distances. Even prior to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and resulting conflicts, the Air Force estimated that it deployed four times more frequently than when it enjoyed the larger, Cold War infrastructure. General Charles T. Robertson, former Commanding General of the U.S. Transportation Command, testified that 'Bottom line: This nation's number one defense transportation shortfall is its ailing and numerically inadequate strategic airlift fleet.'"
CRS Report for Congress, RS20915