The Only Way?

Key House defense appropriator Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) continues to back the split-buy approach as the only means to push ahead with the Air Force’s protest-plagued KC-X tanker program. His comments during a Feb. 16 visit to Boeing facilities in Washington State echoed those he made earlier this month on a visit to Alabama, site of Northrop Grumman’s proposed tanker production facility. However, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Murtha also acknowledged that not everyone on his defense appropriations committee shares his view. Pentagon officials are adamant that a split-buy, allocating a share to each competitor, is not the way to go. Murtha noted, too, that a split buy would be more expensive—a key sticking point for Pentagon chief Robert Gates as he eyes trimming major programs—however, Murtha believes it would provide the tankers more quickly. He pointed to the heightened importance of the tanker recapitalization program as the US shifts its focus and forces from Iraq to Afghanistan. In a now popular refrain, Murtha also called the program “a stimulus package in itself.”