Saturday, September 13, 2008
DOD's Air Force Tanker Decision Is Just Another Example of the Air Force's Procurement Problems
The Department of Defense’s recent decision to cancel the current program replacing the Air Force’s aging fleet of airborne tankers is just another example of the problems of procurement within the Air Force and the DOD as a whole. A government auditor delivered a report to Congress in June describing the current state of procurement within the DOD. The auditor stated that the federal government spent $295 billion more than was expected on major US weapon systems in the previous fiscal year. Senator Carl Leven of Michigan said that this overrun was the “equivalent to two new aircraft carriers, eight attack submarines, 500 V-22 Ospreys, 500 Joint Strike Fighters, 10,000 mine-resistant armored vehicles and the Army's entire $130 billion Future Combat System program.” The result of these cost overruns means that more DOD programs will either be delayed or canceled altogether at a time when these programs are needed to replace aging and worn-out equipment.
The Air Force’s tanker replacement program first experienced problems in 2003 when the first plan to lease 100 Boeing 767s at a cost of $20 billion over 10 years was canceled by Congress. Then the Air Force decided to solicit bids for a replacement tanker, valued at $35 billion. Boeing and Northrop Grumman who worked with the European company EADS submitted two bids. While Northrop and EADS won the competition, Boeing filed a formal protest with the Government Accountability Office, which upheld their protest on the grounds that the competition was unfair and recommended that the competition be reopened. The replacement for the current fleet of aging tankers will now be delayed until at least next year once the new president is in office, unless any more unforeseen protests arise. All of these problems come at a time when the tanker replacement program has been named the #1 procurement priority of the Air Force.
If the Air Force, and the DOD, is going to fix these problems any time soon then it must realize that it can’t just keep throwing more money at programs thinking that it will solve their problems. All that it does is waste more of the tax payers’ money that could be better used on programs that we know are going to work. If the Air Force, or any branch of the military, is going to name a program their #1 priority, then you would think that they would put their best people on it and make sure that it was handled right. Let’s just hope that the DOD gets these problems figured out before our equipment starts to break down when we are called on to defend a NATO country from Russian aggression.