Defense Secretary Robert Gates, clearly worried that the atmosphere is so poisoned by the battle between Boeing and Northrop and tainted by the poor performance of the Air Force, has decided to punt and leave any tanker RFP to the next administration.
Rather than hand the next Administration an incomplete and possibly contested process, Secretary Gates decided that the best course of action is to provide the next Administration with full flexibility regarding the requirements, evaluation criteria and the appropriate allocation of defense budget to this mission, the Pentagon release said this morning..
The release quoted Gates, saying that It is my judgment that in the time remaining to us, we can no longer complete a competition that would be viewed as fair and objective in this highly charged environment. The resulting cooling off period will allow the next Administration to review objectively the military requirements and craft a new acquisition strategy for the KC-X.
The first congressional reaction was positive, from one of the Capitols most important money men. I believe that Secretary Gates made the right decision in providing the next Administration with the opportunity to review the requirements and proceed with a new solicitation. Our committee advised the Defense Department to ensure that there was enough time for legitimate competition. This decision will allow for that, Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.) said in a statement. He signalled pretty clearly that the House Appropriations defense subcommittee would come up with whatever money might be needed to keep the tankers flying. Now our job will be to work with the Department to make certain that our current tankers, that are over 40 years old, will be rehabilitated to ensure we have tankers available for world-wide Air Force missions, he added.