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USAF, Boeing Deny GAO Warning on Tanker Program Test Schedule

Mar. 26, 2012 - 05:58PM   |  
The KC-46A is intended to replace the U.S. Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers.
The KC-46A is intended to replace the U.S. Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers. (Boeing)
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The Government Accountability Office said the U.S. Air Force’s KC-46A tanker program test schedule is too aggressive, a claim the service says is being overblown.

In a March 26 report to Congress, GAO said “significant concurrency, or overlaps, among development and production activities add risk to the program.”

The Air Force and Boeing, the KC-46A prime contractor, said the schedule risk is moderate, “citing concerns about software and the ability to complete development flight testing on time,” the report states.

In a response to GAO, Maj. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the KC-46A program manager, said the agency’s assessment of “significant” concurrency “overstates the actual level and impact of schedule concurrency between development, testing and production activity.”

Boeing was awarded a fixed-price development contract for the tanker program in February 2011. Since then, the program office has developed an acquisition strategy for development and production.

The Air Force is using a $4.4 billion fixed-price development contract that gives Boeing incentives to lower its costs and limits the Pentagon’s liability.

“While estimated development costs are currently $900 million higher than the February 2011 contract award amount, the government’s share of these extra costs is limited to about $500 million,” the report states.

Asked about the status of the KC-46A program during an interview earlier this month, Air Force acquisition executive David Van Buren said, “I feel very good about the program. It is definitely what you would call a green program.”

Dennis Muilenburg, the president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, during a February interview said the company “submitted an aggressive bid, but it’s an executable bid and one that, in the end, will be good business for Boeing and good business for our customer.”

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