One Voice

Twenty-two retired Air Force generals, including former Chief of Staff Gen. Michael E. Ryan and ex Air Combat Command head Gen. Richard E. Hawley, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates March 31 defending USAF’s choice in selecting Northrop Grumman’s tanker platform over the Boeing aircraft. Further, they urged him to help in defending the service “from scurrilous and politically motivated attacks,” asserting that they are “very troubled by the vitriolic attack on the Air Force by those who disagree with the outcome of the KC-45 Tanker competition.” The generals expressed their “unwavering” support for the Air Force team, which exhibits “a commitment to integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all they do.” USAF’s team “rightly focused” on delivering the most capability to the warfighter, and their integrity and truthfulness “should not be denigrated without factual information to the contrary, by those serving other interests,” they argue. Delays in the tanker program “will only serve to put the lives of crews flying these aging systems in greater jeopardy,” they write. For the sake of full disclosure, some of these generals are consultants to Northrop Grumman and its tanker partner EADS or direct employees of them. Northrop Grumman’s KC-30 design, based on the EADS/Airbus A330 airframe, triumphed over Boeing’s KC-767 Feb. 29 in the Air Force’s multi-billion-dollar contest to build up to 179 new tankers. Boeing, believing the Air Force’s evaluation process was seriously flawed, lodged a protest with the Government Accountability Office March 11. GAO has until mid June to rule. In the meantime, Boeing supporters on Capital Hill say they are also weighing legislation to rescind the award since, by law, USAF’s evaluation did not factor larger political issues like US jobs creation and US-Europe trade disputes that they contend need to be considered for such a significant contract.