Pentagon mulls whether to use commercial or military planes to fly formula to US

The U.S. military is working to figure out whether the first deliveries of infant formula from Europe to the United States will be contract flights arranged by the Defense Department or military aircraft, the Pentagon’s top spokesperson said Friday.  

Operation Fly Formula — a new government initiative to address the domestic formula shortage — will likely fly badly needed baby formula from Switzerland to the U.S. using chartered commercial flights arranged by U.S. Transportation Command, press secretary John Kirby told reporters. 

Though the commercial method is favored, as it tends to be “cheaper and usually more efficient” compared to military flights, the Pentagon hasn’t ruled out the latter option.  

“It is possible that throughout Operation Fly Formula that we would determine that the most efficient way to do it would be on a gray tail — a U.S. military aircraft — and so we are working the sourcing right now for this first flight,” Kirby said.  

“I don’t want to leave you with the impression that it’s definitely one or the other. U.S. Transportation Command … [will] find the right sourcing solution, and then as soon as we have that, I will absolutely make that transparent.” 

Kirby pointed out that much of the American security assistance flowing into Ukraine to help in Kyiv’s war with Russia is flown by contract commercial flights and not military aircraft.  

He added that the first flight carrying formula to the U.S will be stateside within “days at most.” 

The Biden administration is working to fly the equivalent of 1.5 million bottles of formula from Zurich to Plainfield, Ind., to be distributed to areas of need. The initiative, launched this week, is one of several steps the White House is taking to increase formula supply. 

Kirby noted that the military will not be part of the distribution of formula. 

“Making sure that everything is safe and ready for distribution and how that gets onto store shelves, that’s not a task that the Department of Defense has been given,” he said. 

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