The United States Air Force has described aerial refueling as a key capability supporting the National Security Strategy and military warfighters on a daily basis. Currently, the Air Force uses two aircraft for aerial refueling: the KC-135 and the KC-10. While the KC-10 fleet has an average age greater than 20 years, the KC-135 fleet averages more than 46 years and is the oldest combat weapon system in the Air Force inventory. Consequently, the Air Force intends to replace or recapitalize the KC-135 first. The Air Force began its KC-135 recapitalization efforts in fiscal year 2004, and officials presented a KC-135 recapitalization program to joint military decision makers in November 2006. This program proposed the inclusion of a passenger and cargo capability, which exists to some extent in the current aircraft, in the replacement air refueling aircraft. According to Air Force officials, the recapitalization process may cost between $72 billion and $120 billion and will span decades. This recapitalization takes place at a time when the Air Force faces fiscal constraints over the next few years, forcing officials to reconfigure the service's short- and long-term priorities in its fiscal year 2008 budget plan. The Air Force has begun this process by announcing the intention to reduce personnel levels by 40,000 members. GAO is currently reviewing, under the Comptroller General's authority to conduct evaluations on his own initiative, the Analysis of Alternatives for the recapitalization of the KC-135 aircraft. To fully understand the Analysis of Alternatives for the KC-135 Recapitalization, we reviewed the requirements determination process, of which an analysis of alternatives is a part. Specifically, GAO reviewed (1) to what extent policy and implementing guidance were followed in identifying the passenger and cargo capability and in assessing the associated risk of not including that capability in the replacement refueling aircraft proposal and (2) to what extent decision makers, who validated and approved the capability as a requirement, relied on analyses as specified in policy and implementing guidance and the extent to which this reliance may affect initiation of the acquisition program.
Matter for Congressional Consideration
|Congress may wish to consider requiring, in addition to the certification described by section 2366a of title 10, United States Code, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisitions, Technology and Logistics to make a specific certification that the Air Force employed a sound, traceable, and repeatable process producing analyses that determined if there is a gap, shortfall, or redundancy and assessed the associated risk with regard to passenger and cargo capability for the KC-135 Recapitalization, and consistent with service policy, Congress may wish to consider requiring that these analyses are made available to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council prior to the Under Secretary's certification of the program pursuant to section 2366a of title 10, United States Code.|
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Defense||1. The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air Force to accomplish the required analyses that evaluate the proposed passenger and cargo capability so as to determine of there is a gap, shortfall, or redundancy, assess the associated risk, and then submit such documentation to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council for validation.|
|Department of Defense||2. The Secretary of Defense should direct the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, to formally notify the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics that such analyses have been completed as required prior to certification of the program to Congress.|