Washington Watch

Aug. 1, 2005

IG Calls Four “Accountable” for Tanker Deal

The Air Force and Pentagon should have defied a 2001 act of Congress ordering them to lease Boeing KC-767 tankers.

That’s the upshot of a seven-month investigation by the DOD inspector general, Joseph E. Schmitz, into the botched effort to rapidly recapitalize the aging KC-135 tanker fleet.

In his report, Schmitz argued that the controversial lease provision—Section 8159 of the Fiscal 2002 appropriations bill—was at odds with other laws. Military officials, faced with conflicting instructions, ignored previous laws governing such a contract, he contended, but they instead should have challenged the lawmakers.

The IG acted at the request of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He released the results June 7.

In assessing blame, Schmitz fingered four individuals, claiming that they are “accountable but not culpable.” The four were Edward C. Aldridge Jr., former undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics; Michael W. Wynne, Aldridge’s deputy; James G. Roche, the Air Force Secretary at the time; and Marvin R. Sambur, former USAF assistant secretary for acquisition.

He noted the culpability of Darleen A. Druyun, the former top civilian USAF acquisition official, who is serving time in federal prison for illegally favoring Boeing in awarding contracts.

Instructed by the legislation to proceed with the novel lease of Boeing 767 tankers, the acquisition officials believed they were absolved from complying with long-standing acquisition rules and regulations, which, had such rules been applied, would have scuttled the plan for various reasons, Schmitz said.

He noted that the proposed arrangement—in which Boeing would supply 100 KC-767 tankers in what amounted to a lease-to-buy contract—“had support of White House officials, members of Congress, senior officials of both the Department of Defense and Air Force, and the Boeing Company.”

The lease idea was put forward to get more tankers into service rapidly and modernize a badly aged element of the Air Force fleet.

The first flaw in that plan, Schmitz argued, was that, “before and immediately after Sept. 11, 2001, the Air Force had neither identified nor funded an urgent requirement for the replacement of its existing fleet of tankers.”

Next, he charged, the Air Force failed to conduct the standard analysis of alternatives (AOA) as to whether there might be other—possibly more cost-effective—means of supplying the needed refueling capability. The senior officials believed that the law—which specified the Boeing 767 as the solution, since there was no other boom-type tanker available worldwide—relieved them of the need to conduct an AOA.

In addition, Schmitz went on, the officials failed to conduct various normally required “best practices” actions, as well as additional checks usually required in a lease situation. These last regulations specified that a lease could be undertaken only if time was of the essence or if the cost did not exceed that of an outright purchase by a certain degree.

Schmitz claimed DOD and Air Force officials acted “as if Section 8159 … had waived various legal requirements—statutory checks and balances—that that section had not.”

The IG recommended a recommitment to the existing acquisition regulations in all matters, especially a program of such size, potentially exceeding $20 billion.

Gordon R. England, the acting deputy secretary of defense, informed the Senators that DOD has already tightened regulations to make them conform to existing acquisition laws, clarified rules about who can enter into a contract, changed the curriculum at the Pentagon’s acquisition school, and rewritten several handbooks as to how to go about buying and leasing.

However, said England, “the final answer to past problems may lie in a complete restructuring of the way the department accomplishes acquisition for all of its goods and services.” He promised a comprehensive review of the system, going back to the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols legislation that set up the existing system.

New Tanker Plan Could Appear in 2008 Budget

The Air Force will put funds in its Fiscal 2008 budget to begin a tanker recapitalization effort, acting Air Force Secretary Michael L. Dominguez reported.

Speaking at a Washington, D.C., seminar in June, Dominguez said the Air Force expects to release this month an analysis of alternatives on how to approach tanker modernization.

The report itself will not be sufficient to serve as a plan, however. Dominguez said study will continue through Fiscal 2007.

“The most likely scenario [for funding to appear and for a program to get under way] is the FY08 President’s budget,” said Dominguez, and “the program will flow from that.”

Given the unraveling of an attempt to lease tankers from Boeing, “the acquisition strategy is almost certainly going to be procurement,” he asserted, noting that the Air Force will buy the aircraft outright and “own them for a very, very long time.”

The KC-135 is approaching an average age of 45 years. The last won’t leave service for another 20 years.

Dominguez underlined the importance of the tankers, noting they are the means by which most of the US air fleet gets to the scene of action. Tankers are “the single choke point” of military operations, he said, and America’s status as a superpower “flies on the back of a Boeing 707,” on which the KC-135 is based.

The delay in getting the program launched will complicate the range of options available. Boeing’s 767 production line has nearly finished up all of its existing orders, and Boeing has said it can’t realistically keep the line open just on the chance that the Air Force will wish to order some of the aircraft.

In fact, Boeing said last year that the line would close in 2005 without more firm orders, but it is trying to be flexible enough to accommodate the Air Force.

Meanwhile, European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. has developed a boom tanker version of its A330 transport and has plans to produce the aircraft in Alabama if it successfully competes for some of the tanker work. (See “Aerospace World: EADS Chooses Alabama Site,” p. 18.)

Air Guard Takes Aim at BRAC

Some Air National Guard leaders are none too happy about the Pentagon’s base realignment and closure proposals, released in May. They are worried that the air mission for many units will disappear completely. They are taking their case directly to the BRAC Commission.

Meanwhile, House members unhappy with the BRAC process within the Pentagon, and its affect on their states’ Guard units, have petitioned the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), to launch hearings on the issue.

At a Heritage Foundation symposium in Washington, the New Hampshire adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Clark, said the Air Guard was not consulted on the BRAC recommendations before they were publicly announced, even though the recommendations were more than two years in the making.

Retired Brig. Gen. Stephen M. Koper, president of the National Guard Association of the United States, said that, while he doesn’t have a problem with closing or realigning bases per se, he objected to the Air Force’s withdrawal of aircraft and missions from various bases and airports without consultation.

Clark said that maybe the hand-in-glove relationship touted between USAF and the Guard isn’t “the partnership you thought.”

Maj. Gen. Francis D. Vavala of Delaware, a vice president of the Adjutants General Association of the United States, said Guard leaders across the US, including overseas territories, have voted unanimously to oppose the BRAC recommendations.

“This is the message coming from all 54 of us,” he said.

Vavala’s home state of Delaware could lose all its C-130s and its flying mission. Clark’s state actually stands to gain some KC-135 aircraft, but he said the Guard associations are standing united in their opposition to the process so far.

An Air Force delegation to Capitol Hill to answer staffer questions on the Air Guard changes left many dissatisfied. Staffers reported that the Air Force’s choices seemed inconsistent, arbitrary, and didn’t always follow written rules or measures.

Six states or territories are slated to lose all their aircraft. Guard members said they worry that this policy will oblige Guardsmen to travel hundreds of miles to other bases for drill, which could hurt recruiting and retention.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), whose state would lose its F-16s, told the Associated Press that “we can’t get people too excited about joining and being there and being retained if we don’t have a mission that’s relevant to them.” Duluth, which hosts the Air Guard F-16s, would revert to an “air sovereignty” base, also called an “enclave,” a term that describes a base that can be in perpetual standby status.

“If you’re an air sovereignty alert site and you have no airplanes, that creates a real problem,” Pawlenty said.

In a letter to Hunter, 23 House members said they are “very concerned” about the idea of enclaves, noting the action may be an “effort to circumvent” BRAC and ultimately close the facilities without due process.

“The Air Force has indicated that these bases will be kept in anticipation of follow-on missions,” the representatives wrote. However, “we have seen no evidence that the Air Force has made any adjustments to its budgeting policies to accommodate the enclave concept.” They questioned whether, without funding, mission, or equipment, the bases would shrink so much over time that they couldn’t grow back to handle a new mission, once identified.

“It is not clear that an enclave base can sustain expeditionary combat units. Once flying units are removed from the enclave bases, many will no longer be able to support military or civilian aircraft operations,” the letter went on. The loss of rated firefighters at a base “will lead many shared airports to lose FAA ratings and fail to meet minimal Air Force and civilian criteria for landing and unloading.”

The Congressmen also noted that nowhere in the BRAC charter is the concept of enclaves even “mentioned as an option.”

“Finally, we are concerned that enclaves simply will not meet the homeland security needs of governors. … We have seen little analysis to support this new concept.”

No “Overt” Religious Discrimination Found at USAFA

According to an Air Force look into the question of potential religious discrimination at the Air Force Academy, the Colorado Springs school suffers from “a lack of awareness over where the line is drawn between permissible and impermissible expression of beliefs.”

Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady, deputy chief of staff for personnel, conducted the review at the request of acting Air Force Secretary Michael Dominguez. It claimed that there was no evidence of systematic Christian evangelism among the faculty at the academy.

Some students—and Lutheran chaplain Capt. Melinda S. Morton, who resigned from the academy over the issue—had complained that cadets who are not evangelical Christians are subjected to unwanted proselytizing and a culture of religious bias from evangelicals in the main body of the staff and cadet corps.

Despite his finding of no discrimination, Brady, at a Pentagon press conference, said academy officials need to address problems such as the failure to respect the religious needs of cadets of all religions. Such respect would include allowing cadets of different faiths time to pursue their own religious traditions.

He acknowledged a number of cases of “concern,” including seven referred for further investigation. He declined to be specific, but allowed that some involved professors.

Brady’s report lauds outgoing academy superintendent Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa Jr. for responding to complaints early in his tenure and launching a broad effort to incorporate reforms.

In a letter to the academy Board of Visitors, Dominguez said he supports Brady’s conclusions and recommendations and will “personally track … progress” in implementing the recommendations. He said the academy and the Air Force “will be better for having had this experience.”

A week after the report was released, Dominguez announced the appointment of Rabbi Arnold E. Resnicoff to be an advisor to the Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force on drafting guidelines for the expression of faith while on active duty. Resnicoff is former director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee.

Resnicoff, speaking at a press briefing, said that the Air Force is taking on the religious bias issue throughout the service, not just at the academy, and that Dominguez and USAF Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper “could not be taking this matter any more seriously than they are.”

China’s Buildup Alarms Pentagon

Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld has now concluded that the Chinese military is substantially and unexpectedly expanding its capabilities and spending in virtually all areas of military endeavor, a development of “concern,” in his view.

Speaking at a June security conference in Singapore, Rumsfeld said a forthcoming DOD report to Congress warns that “China’s defense expenditures are much higher than Chinese officials have published. It is estimated that China’s is the third largest military budget in the world and clearly the largest in Asia.”

China “appears to be expanding its missile forces, allowing them to reach targets in many areas of the world, not just the Pacific region, while also expanding its missile capabilities within this region,” Rumsfeld continued. “China also is improving its ability to project power and developing advanced systems of military technology.”

The report to which Rumsfeld referred is required annually by Congress. Previous versions have noted Beijing’s efforts to develop a blue-water navy with both advanced attack submarine and aircraft carrier capabilities, as well as development of satellite-guided precision munitions now believed to be copied from the American Joint Direct Attack Munition guidance system.

“Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases? Why these continuing robust deployments?” Rumsfeld asked rhetorically.

The growth of China’s military spending has paced its economic development, Rumsfeld said, but he noted that “a growth in political freedom has not yet followed suit.” He suggested that China will soon face “important decisions” about its goals and future and that, “ultimately, China likely will need to embrace some form of a more open and representative government if it is to fully achieve the political and economic benefits to which its people aspire.”

Also sounding an alarm about China is CIA Director Porter J. Goss, who told the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 1 that China’s military improvements and buildup “could tilt the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait.”

He said Beijing perceives the US as trying to “contain or encircle” China and that in response China is taking steps to secure needed energy resources and raw materials in other countries, is gaining a larger voice in international affairs, and is obtaining military systems with which it could challenge the US.

Goss said China would respond militarily if Taiwan takes any further steps toward proclaiming independence from China. Though the two have been separate for 50 years, China considers Taiwan a breakaway province still part of the mainland nation.

According to published accounts, the Pentagon’s report to Congress will note the recent successful launch of the JL-2, a new Chinese submarine-launched ballistic missile with a range of 6,000 miles, allowing China to strike at targets in the US from the waters near the Chinese mainland. Land-based variants are also in development. China is thought to have deployed a copy of the US Aegis air defense system deployed on surface vessels and has stepped up the pace of importing military hardware, particularly combat aircraft and attack submarines from Russia.

The US also put the brakes on arms transfers to Israel in June, displeased at continuing reports that Tel Aviv has been supplying advanced weapons technology to Beijing. Israel was reportedly helping China develop a derivative of an Israeli unmanned aircraft. Israel also supplied extensive assistance to China in developing the J-10, China’s new fighter. The J-10 bears a striking resemblance to the Lavi, a canceled Israel-US joint venture to develop an Israeli indigenous fighter based on the American F-16.

Part of the rebuke was the denial of Israel’s request to get involved with development of the F-35 fighter. Israel said it would report to the US any military ties with China. The US wants details on 60 transactions between the Israeli military and Beijing.

Nevertheless, Chinese diplomats visiting Israel in late June said military cooperation was on the agenda.