Jim Martin
When the White House and Congress wanted to take old cars off the road and replace them with newer models, they passed "Cash for Clunkers."

However, when it comes to the clunkers in America's military aircraft, things are quite a bit different. For more than a decade, Congress has wrangled with how to replace our aging fleet of aerial refueling tankers. The planes that provide much-needed in-flight fuel to military aircraft have been in circulation since 1957. Yet, despite the desperate need for an upgrade, political gamesmanship has delayed the Air Force from trading them in.

While they are not the supersonic fighter planes glamorized in movies, the Air Force simply could not do its job without these tankers.

Like the efficient new sedan that was supposed to replace the old clunker, the goal of upgrading the tanker should be to replace aging equipment and obsolete technology with a better, more efficient design, at a reasonable cost and timeframe. Unfortunately, neither goal is currently being met.

In a move that has since been overturned by the General Accountability Office, the Air Force procurement office announced last year that it would award the contract to build the new tanker fleet to a European firm EADS, working with American-based Northrop Grumman, that had never built a tanker, instead of American-based Boeing. This decision ignored input from "warfighters" on the actual core mission of the tanker, and according to the GAO, changed the requirements for the bids in mid-process while keeping Boeing in the dark about these changes.

GAO upheld a Boeing protest of the contract award last summer. In the midst of a presidential election year, the bidding process was set back yet another year with the Pentagon setting a deadline of Oct. 1 for a new, "final" decision.

Already well behind schedule, the Air Force needs to salvage the situation by deciding on selection criteria based on the best advice of our warfighters, not politicians. Then, they need to select the most capable company to build the most capable aircraft.

Simply put, Boeing has been building America's aerial refueling tankers since 1957 and can start building our new tanker without further delays. EADS and its American partners will need to build and equip a factory then hire and train a work force before it can actually start building a tanker - a process that will take several additional years.


Jim Martin

Jim Martin is Founder and Chairman of the 60 Plus Association, a non-partisan seniors' advocacy group with a free enterprise, limited government, less taxes approach.


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