The Air Force is committed to fielding the KC-46A tanker “on time and on budget,” said David Van Buren, USAF’s acquisition executive, Thursday. “As we work toward the low-rate initial production decision scheduled for late Fiscal Year 2015, we are confident that we can maintain the cost and schedule of this program while mitigating the identified risks,” he told members of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower and projection forces panel. However, draconian cuts to the defense budget—if the 2011 Budget Control Act’s sequestration mechanism kicks in—could derail the program’s progress, acknowledged Van Buren. “It is too early to determine the specific impacts to aerial refueling programs because such cuts would require the Air Force to rebalance its entire portfolio [of] programs,” he said. “However, we do know that any mandated significant cuts to the KC-46 program would have grave consequences for the program. Likewise, fully funding the KC-46 program under sequestration would be at the expense of other programs.” (See also KC-46A Clears Major Milestone from the Daily Report archives.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.