Action on the Next Tanker?

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said June 18 that he is “within a few days” of the way forward in the Air Force’s KC-X tanker replacement program. That must come as welcome news to lawmakers, including Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) who just the day before had criticized the Pentagon for a lack of a plan. Gates told reporters at the Pentagon, “I’m probably within a few days of making a decision on the structure of how we’re going to go about the process and who will be the acquisition authority and so on.” The Air Force has been refining its process, upping the “ante” by bringing more senior officials into the mix, but there is no guarantee that Gates will throw the program back into Air Force hands. Gates told the reporters he is still “hoping that we can get an RFP [request for proposal] out midsummer or thereabouts.” He told lawmakers earlier this month that he wasn’t certain it would be out by July, which puts it more in the “thereabouts” timeframe. As it gets later in the year, there is little likelihood that an award could be made this year.