To Split or Not to Split?

The answer was the same from both Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz: no split for the rejuvenated KC-X tanker replacement program. The Air Force plans to issue a new draft request for proposals “within the next month or so,” Donley told the Senate Armed Services Committee during a May 21 hearing on the service’s 2010 budget request, followed by a contract award “probably next spring.” If the service had to support a two-tanker program, Donley maintained, USAF would have “to spend a lot more money up front to support two sort of minimum economic order production lines at the same time.” He explained that the “considerable downside” in having to increase the buy from 15 per year with a single contractor to 24 per year to accommodate two contractors is that “it costs us a lot more money to do that every single year.” And, that, Donley continued, would put “a huge dent in our procurement plans going forward for other necessary capabilities in other areas.” Schwartz noted, too, that “we are not dealing with sophisticated platforms here; we’re dealing with commercial derivative platforms.” He asserted, “We should invest the limited dollars we have to get the most airplanes as quickly as we can,” rather than spending scarce dollars on sustaining “two supply chains, two training activities, and so on.” However, there continues to be great concern that the tanker program will fail again if it doesn’t go the two tanker route.