Awarding T-X Contract During a Continuing Resolution

The Air Force's top acquisition chief, Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, told reporters at ASC17 if the CR doesn’t last until the service is ready to award the T-X advanced trainer contract, the service will "work around" it. Above, he's speaking on rapid capabilities the same day. Staff photo by Mike Tsukamoto.

The Air Force is planning to award the T-X advanced trainer contract by the end of the year, but the Continuing Resolution only lasts until Dec. 10. What if there’s no budget by the time T-X is ready to award? “We’ll look at our options,” USAF’s top acquisition chief, Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, told reporters on Tuesday.

Bunch said if the CR doesn’t last much beyond Dec. 8, “We’ll work around it,” and the T-X can get going on time. However, if the CR is replaced with another CR—thus barring new starts—it could really play havoc with the T-X, especially if a new sequester goes into effect.

While Bunch said it’s not unprecedented that “we award a contract, and delay a few months” on getting the winner to start work on it, he also said it’s important not to rush and try to scoot the award in under the wire. “Sometimes, you have to go slow to go fast,” he said, noting success in other recent awards that have been upheld after a protest.

Programs in source selection are “event driven,” not calendar-driven, he said, adding two thoughts. One, “there’s so much that could happen between now and December,” and “We really need a budget.”

Bunch said the T-X is funded for about $2 billion across the future years defense plan, and its final value is still to be determined by a Pentagon cost estimate. Initial operational capability is set for 2024—and full operational capability in 2034—but Bunch said his office has been peppered by questions from Capitol Hill, the press, and inside the Air Force whether the program could be accelerated, and the answer is “yes,” he said.