USAF Reiterates Stance Against Split KC-X Buy

Changing the already approved strategy to crown a single winner in the KC-X tanker contest and pursue instead a split buy remains highly undesirable and the Air Force has no intention of doing it, a senior USAF official said yesterday (see above), reiterating the service’s staunch position throughout the competition. “If we are going to have a revised acquisition strategy, to start that and redo all of that, will take us anywhere from 18 to 24 months,” Kenneth Miller, special assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition Governance and Transparency, told the Senate Tanker Caucus, during a briefing Feb. 14 on Capitol Hill. “If we are trying to get something fielded fast, the current strategy that has been approved is the best strategy we can get.” The Air Force has maintained that, given the imperative to replace Eisenhower-era KC-135s, the most cost effective and expeditious manner to get a new tanker on the flight line is to choose a single winner, either Boeing’s KC-767 or the Northrop Grumman/EADS KC-30, and not procure both. Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), founder and co-chair of the caucus, agreed, saying a split buy only “drives up the cost” and “extends the procurement.” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the other caucus co-chair, also shared this view. “I think the answer is obvious,” he said. “We would have two production lines. It would be much more expensive.”