The U.S. Air Force has canceled a $24 million contract to replace the refrigerators on Air Force One after U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, asked the head of the Air Force to look into the need for the new "chiller" units, given they would only be in use for about four years.
The new refrigerator units weren't expected to be installed until 2020, and the new Air Force One planes are expected to be "mission ready" by 2024, Courtney said.
"My main concern is that these planes were going to be flying with new chillers for four years," he said by phone Tuesday afternoon.
The news of the canceled contract was reportedly first revealed by Courtney's office when it put out a statement Monday afternoon saying that the Air Force told him it will cancel the contract. Courtney is the ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, which oversees Air Force One and the presidential aircraft recapitalization program.
On Feb. 8, Courtney wrote to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson to express concern that the contract was "sole source," meaning one supplier, and that Boeing made the determination that the supplier was "the only entity capable of performing the work ... with little or no input from the Air Force."
"I am disappointed that the Air Force appears to have not considered pursuing a competitive sourcing process for this work," he wrote.
Wilson wrote back to Courtney on May 29 and said the Air Force and the White House Military Office "jointly decided to terminate the effort." She agreed that, given the progress on the replacement aircraft, canceling the contract for the chillers, though needed, makes the "most prudent fiscal sense for the government."
If the replacement program is delayed, the Air Force and the White House Military Office "will need to relook at this effort," she said. "While not optimal, mitigation options exist to ensure food security until new aircraft are delivered."
Air Force One is the call sign for any U.S. Air Force plane carrying the president but usually refers to the two identical planes that have been specifically modified to meet the security and logistical needs of the commander-in-chief and his flying staff. Air Force One must be able to feed passengers and crew for weeks without resupplying, which amounts to storing about 3,000 meals, according to Defense One.
The two jets that currently fly the U.S. president are modified Boeing 747-200 models, and have been in use since 1990.
The White House announced in February that it had reached a $3.9 billion deal with Boeing to develop and build two Air Force One replacements. President Donald Trump, a month before he was sworn into office, threatened to cancel the program over its cost, which he called "out of control" at the time.
This article is written by Julia Bergman from The Day, New London, Conn. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.