The Air Force's top officer explained Wednesday that today's austere budget environment is not the time to revisit the problems in his service's acquisition arm highlighted by the tanker program and now the failed Super Tucano contract.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz called it a "profound disappointment" after service leaders had to negate a $355 million contract awarded to Sierra Nevada and Embraer to buy 20 Super Tucano light-attack aircraft for the Afghan military.
Air Force Materiel Command has opened an investigation and service leaders were forced to alert the Justice Department. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said Tuesday the service had fallen short in its pursuit of "perfection," saying in a statement that service acquisition executive David Van Buren was "not satisfied with the quality of the documentation supporting the award decision"
Wednesday morning at the Defense Writers' Group breakfast it was Schwartz's turn to declare his commitment to getting it right and figuring out a way to buy a light-attack aircraft for the Afghan military before the budget allotment disappears. Schwartz went as far to say his service's "institutional reputation is at stake."
He assured the group that his airmen will "work their asses off" to figure out where the process went wrong and find a way to make it right. If there was anything other than an "innocent" mistake made, "there will be hell to pay," Schwartz said.
Air Force leaders awarded the Super Tucano contract in December. The loser, Hawker Beechcraft, submitted a protest shortly after the service passed over their AT-6 turboprop. The Kansas-based aviation company lost the protest, but later filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
The Super Tucano contract will not immediately disappear. It will be set aside as of March 2.