Fuzzy Math

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), chairman of the House Armed Services air and land forces panel, said he does not understand how Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived at the $7 billion to $14 billion figures when estimating the added costs to the Air Force of a split tanker buy. Reuters news wire service reported April 19 that Abercrombie cannot mesh how the extra costs could be so high given that the Boeing and Northrop Grumman/EADS tanker models are “two commercial airliners essentially.” Gates told an audience April 15 at Air University at Maxwell AFB, Ala., that he was laying his body “down across the tracks” in opposition to a split tanker buy and instead favors a winner-take-all contest. (Full transcript of his remarks.) On the previous day, he cited the lofty cost figures, saying those extra dollars would be needed just in the next five years to cover both companies’ developmental work on their respective tanker models. Despite that, Abercrombie told Reuters, that he still remains open to the split buy, an approach that Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel, has said he also supports.