Modernizing of tanker fleet needed

Published 4:47 pm Monday, June 8, 2009

By Staff
Congressman Artur Davis (D-AL) and I penned an editorial providing recommendations for the Department of Defense as the tanker competition moves forward and calling for the process to proceed with all due speed.   The editorial ran in the Washington Times and a portion is printed below:
The Air Force is moving forward with yet another Request for Proposal (RFP) to replace the ever aging KC-135 Aerial Refueling Tanker.  Since 2001, the Pentagon has been in the process of replacing the aging tanker.  These aircraft average 50 years of age, and they are showing the strain of their age. The defense secretary has declared it a strategic priority to modernize these tankers for a new century’s threats.
Yet, eight years later, a new tanker has not been built, and the acquisition process is mired in Wash-ington politics. Our potential adversaries are watching while we debate, and delay.  As Members of Congress and advocates for the warfighter, we would like to offer thoughts from this side of the Potomac River.
Build on the original RFP that worked. 
Build on the RFP that was issued January 30, 2007, after being thoroughly vetted through three publicly-issued drafts.  The 150-person Department of Defense (DoD) source selection team invested tens of thousands of hours in crafting that RFP and understanding the competitor’s proposals.  Don’t throw their work away. 
The GAO did find a grand total of eight discrepancies in the handling of that RFP out of the 111 complaints Boeing alleged in its protest.  Rather than begin anew, the RFP should be tweaked to address those eight GAO issues, and then we should move forward with the source selection.
To go back to square one to create a new RFP will add years – and millions of additional dollars – to the process.  Nothing in the GAO findings demands a start from scratch.
Keep the playing field level. 
If the RFP is slanted to predetermine a winner, then there will not be a meaningful competition. Without a real competition, we run the risk of repeating the one-sided KC-767 lease deal. Boeing is a proud company with a distinguished tradition, but the record of that deal is replete with proved corruption and excessive costs.
This lesson is unmistakable: rigorous competition yields better deals for the taxpayer and provides more capability for the warfighter.  A multi-billion dollar contract deserves more than a sole source.
In closing, we urge DoD to move forward on this program with all due speed, taking these recommendations into consideration.   The men and women of our military are depending on solutions, not politics.  The same can be said for our nation, which awaits results.
Jo Bonner serves as a member of the house of

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