Dec 11 2008

Shelby to Gates: Tanker Needed Now

U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to urge the Department of Defense to quickly move forward with a plan to replace our aging tanker fleet. 

“The Department of Defense has a responsibility to our men and women in uniform to replace the aging tanker fleet quickly,” said Shelby.  “We are a nation at war, sending our pilots into battle on planes that are largely older than they are.  Now is the time to bring this needed capability to the warfighter.  I encourage the Department of Defense to move past politics and acquire the best plane for our armed forces as quickly as possible.”

Full text of the letter is below.


December 11, 2008


The Honorable Robert M. Gates
Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301-1000

Dear Secretary Gates,

We are writing regarding the U.S. Air Force KC-X tanker replacement procurement.  The Air Force has an urgent need to replace its aging tanker fleet and we must move forward without undue delay.

On September 10, 2008, you terminated the tanker replacement program competition to allow the next Administration to craft a new acquisition strategy.  Given that you will be part of the next Administration, we urge you to move forward quickly to replace our aging tanker fleet.  Not only do we need to quickly deliver new tankers to our airmen, we need to ensure the replacement aircraft is the best available option for both the warfighter and the taxpayer.  It is critical to ensure our warfighter gets the most capable tanker our nation can provide in an expedient, best value process.  Mr. Secretary, as you know, the average age of our current tanker is now older than the average age of the pilot who flies it.  As such, we also have very serious safety concerns with a continued delay in the selection of a replacement tanker. 

Acknowledging the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) recommendation that a full re-competition is not warranted, we urge the Department to quickly move forward with an acquisition strategy that follows the established competitive process and simply addresses the eight issues of concern stated by the GAO.  Further, the tanker replacement program should be based on a best value process.  A best value acquisition strategy allows the government to procure the most capable equipment at the most affordable price.

 Our primary interest is to ensure that the capabilities of our tanker fleet are the very best and that our armed forces receive the equipment they need in executing future operations.  As the foundation of our ability to project force globally for the next half century, we must obtain the best platform for the $100 billion taxpayer investment. 

 It is time to acquire the best plane for our armed forces; our warfighters deserve nothing less.  We respectfully urge you to act now and implement an acquisition strategy that meets our national security needs.

 We would like to discuss this critically important matter with you at your earliest possible convenience in January.


Richard Shelby       Jeff Sessions