Keeping Costs Grounded

Despite there being only a “single known supplier”—USAF’s new buzz phrase for “sole source”—for the new Air Force One, the service is looking to compete as much of the program as possible, Secretary Deborah Lee James said Wednesday. In a statement announcing the choice of the 747-8 as the platform for the next Air Force One, James said the only other modern, four-engine aircraft in the class of the Dash-8’s size is the Airbus A380, and it was important that the airplane be made in America as a symbol of the nation. James issued a “determinations and findings” document authorizing an aircraft purchase by “other than full and open competition” because of the unique circumstances. The finding is not a contract; that will come after negotiations, a service spokesman said. James recently said she’ll try to inject competition into contracting wherever possible, even when there’s a sole source. USAF wants to own “enough of the technical baseline” for the Air Force One “to permit competition for sustainment throughout the aircraft’s planned 30-year life cycle,” a spokesman said. Competition is expected to “keep costs down, spur innovation, and provide options.” James also wants competition on the subsystems, and USAF will be involved even if Boeing runs the subsystems contest, she said. Other strategies to hold down costs will include the “use of proven technologies and commercially certified equipment.” Boeing issued a statement saying, “we look forward to working with the Air Force and continuing to draw on our more than 50-year experience with this program.”