KC-46A Air Force Tanker Will Be Protected From Budget Cuts
With the sequester forcing the service to look across the board for cost savings, the Air Force is committed to “making sure the KC-46 tanker delivers on time and on cost,” said Gen. Paul Selva, commander of Air Force Mobility Command at a media breakfast in Washington, D.C.
Replacing the 60-year-old KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft with the KC-46 has been on the service’s agenda for more than a decade and has been fraught with controversy, delays and rising costs.
The service in 2011 awarded the Boeing Co. a $3.5 billion contract to build the KC-46.
“We have a firm-fixed price contract on the development of that airplane. If we allow ourselves to get in a position where we don’t have the funds to pay for the airplane and that contract gets reopened, that will be bad for the Air Force and bad for the nation,” said Selva.
Sequestration has consumed much of the service’s attention, Selva said. He, along with his staff, have spent a “disproportionate” amount of resources and focus working on the budget, he said. “A pretty significant percentage level of our effort is aimed at either mitigating the impact of the loss of revenue that’s a result of the sequester, or trying to maneuver inside the fairly narrow lanes that are laid out … for how we can manage the money we do have,” he said.
The sequester is diverting focus away from routine tasks throughout the service, Selva said. Rather than focusing on a mission, airmen are focusing on what will happen to their squadron and their families as a result of the budget cuts.
“The notion of the sequester has consumed intellectual effort across the enterprise, from the youngest airmen on the flight line to my desk,” Selva said. “My concern … is that [budget worries] drive us to a place where airmen pay less attention to their job.”
This can produce “insidious” consequences when it comes to training, Selva said. “We owe it to them [airmen] to make sure they are trained and focused,” he said.
Photo Credit: Air Force