Wynne, Rethink Split Tanker Buy

The Department of Defense should consider awarding both Boeing and Northrop Grumman contracts to build new tanker aircraft for the Air Force, former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne told the Daily Report yesterday. Wynne said in an interview having each contractor supply tankers at a rate of about 15 per year—equal to the amount that the winning bidder would provide under the current winner-take-all scenario of the Air Force’s KC-X tanker recapitalization program—would be worth the extra cost. And it offers a way past the current legal impasse caused by Boeing’s successful protest of USAF’s contract award to Northrop in February. “I think a split buy right now is something that we have to examine,” said Wynne, who stepped down June 20 amid disagreements with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Keeping two suppliers would strengthen the industrial base, replace the Eisenhower-era KC-135 tankers more quickly, and maintain competition “well into the future,” he said. The latter point is not trivial since the Air Force intends to procure about 500 new tankers overall to replace the KC-135s. Wynne said, when asked, he would support applying some of the $5 billion in added procurement funds that the Air Force will reportedly receive in Fiscal 2010 to cover the higher costs of supporting two tanker lines. “I would be willing to do that provided that the Congress supports that,” he said. (For more Wynne comments on the KC-X tanker program, read Come Together by Splitting)