Both Congress and the Pentagon seem to agree that now is not the time to cut funding for the Air Force’s KC-46 tanker program.
It took the Air Force a decade to award a contract to the Boeing Co. for the aerial refueling tanker, which is based on Boeing’s Everett-built 767 commercial aircraft. The new KC-46A will replace Eisenhower-era KC-135 tankers, also built by Boeing.
Air Force wants to “protect the tanker no matter what,” Lt. Gen. Charles Davis, who leads Air Force acquisition, said on Tuesday.
The ‘no matter what’ refers to the across-the-board budget cuts, known as sequestration, the federal government is facing.
The Air Force had $870 million allotted for the tanker program in 2012 with a plan of increasing tanker funding to $1.8 billion this year. Since Congress couldn’t reach an agreement on the 2013 budget, the government is operating under a continuing resolution that frozen spending at 2012 levels. For the tanker program, a freeze means less money is going to the tanker program than planned.
The good news for Boeing’s KC-46 tanker is that both sides of Congress want to fund the tanker at the $1.8 billion level.
The House preserved that level of tanker spending in its 2013 budget proposal, which has been sent to the Senate, said a spokesman for Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash. Although the Senate’s proposed budget isn’t the same as the House’s, so far the $1.8 billion tanker portion of it remains the same.
For more on tanker funding, read this Air Force Times story.