Done Deal? House Approves DOD Spending Bill With Tanker
The House of
Representatives Friday approved its final defense spending bill,
including a multi-billion dollar compromise on the purchase of 100
Boeing tankers. As ANN has reported (at length...), the tanker
deal has been the center of controversy between lawmakers and the
Air Force, which says it desperately needs to replace its aging
fleet of KC-135 tankers. Many of those aircraft are as old or
even older than the crews who fly them.
It's a battle that's been fought between the Pentagon and
Capitol Hill for two years now. The Air Force claimed the
existing tanker fleet is so old that it's becoming dangerous.
Boeing said the fastest way to replace the fleet was to lease
specially modified 767s. But that would be a lot more expensive
than buying the aircraft outright, which is the traditional way for
the Pentagon to do things.
The compromise goes like this...
The USAF will lease the first 20 tankers
starting next year. The Air Force would buy the rest between
2006 and 2014.
During the debate,
things got ugly. Critics of the lease option accused the Air Force
of exaggerating the corrosion problem to get the tankers faster
than needed. They accused the Pentagon of trying to buy the
aviation industry out of its terrible slump that started after the
9/11 attacks. So the Pentagon gave a little, agreeing to the
20-80 plan as put forth by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman
John Warner (R-VA). Warner says the compromise saves American
taxpayers about $4 billion.
The compromise is part of a $401 billion Defense Authorization
Bill. It now goes on to the Senate where it's not expected to face