Friday, February 26, 2010

Air Force issued KC-X request for proposal

David Small
Director of Communications and Air Force Affairs

The Air Force issued a revised request for proposal for 179 KC-X aerial refueling aircraft to replace its oldest KC-135 tankers yet again Feb. 24.

The most obvious difference in the new RFP is the fact the Air Force dropped one mandatory requirement, from 373 to 372 mandatory requirements. The missing requirement was for a microwave landing system. There are another 230 slight changes from the previous RFP based on criticism from industry and Congress, but otherwise, the document doesn’t deviate from its goal to meet Air Force needs while getting the best deal for the taxpayer, said Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn at a Pentagon Press briefing.

The timeline: both Boeing and Northrop Grumman now have 75 days to turn in their proposals, followed by 120 days of evaluation and a projected announcement of a winner in early Fall. Since the protest was upheld, Northrop Grumman has threatened to not bid, but industry analysts can’t see Northrop Grumman passing on the largest defense contract in history to the tune of $40 billion.

Stirring the controversy is the World Trade Organization’s finding that the European subsidies to the French company were illegal. The subsidies reduced the cost-per-aircraft of the Northrop Grumman/EADS bid by nearly $8 million per aircraft.

While the Reserve Officers Association maintains no position on which company ought to be awarded this contract in its push for quickly acquiring a new aerial tanker, the association does maintain positions that should be considered when assessing the competition.

First, ROA holds a position on the necessity to retain an adequate aerospace industrial base in the United States. Click here to see the new resolution on the Defense Industrial Base, just passed in February.

In this resolution, ROA recognizes the industrial base as a key national security asset, without, which America is at a disadvantage. At no time in history has our aerospace industrial base been threatened as it is now. Click here to read about this plight in The Officer Magazine.

ROA’s position is that decision makers must carefully consider the implications to the defense industrial base of all future major budget and program decisions and take immediate steps to protect important, vital, and unique military equipment production lines. It specifically cites strategic airlift production lines.

No doubt the Tanker program is a key strategic airlift production line. Northrop Grumman has stated it will assemble their aircraft in Alabama. Boeing would be built in Seattle, Wash., and Wichita, Kansas. Both companies would utilize overseas suppliers for sections of either aircraft. The first seven Northrop/EADS aircraft would be built completely in Toulouse, France.

Likewise, ROA looks out for the unique needs of the Reserve. While the Air Force previously selected the Airbus 330 platform as their solution over the Boeing 767 platform, the Air Force did not take into account how the aircraft’s size factor will affect the Reserve Component units flying the tanker now. Many of the Reserve locations currently flying the KC-135 would not be able to accommodate a larger aircraft. Should Boeing bid the KC-777 platform, it is even larger than the Airbus 330. Either choice would require these bases to undergo a significant MILCON project to increase ramp and hangar space. With the White House cutting MILCON, a smaller airframe would be better suited for the Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve.

Lastly, ROA has taken a strong educational stance that America’s energy policy has a direct effect on national security given America’s reliance on foreign energy sources. Because the United States remains dependent on overseas oil as a source for aviation fuel, the life cycle fuel efficiency needs to be a factor included in any final contract determination. Over the life of the aircraft, the aircraft’s fuel efficiency can be both a significant taxpayer savings on fuel costs, and a significant carbon footprint reduction.

Advocates for both parties are likely storming the hill now and congressional pressure will again become parochial as Congress focuses on jobs in their districts. Either choice will mean jobs for Americans, it just depends on where. Instead of jobs, Congress must focus on the national security aspects of the choice: Protect our industrial base, protect the tanker mission heavily reliant on the Reserve Component, and consider effects on America’s energy predicament.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

No Tricare Hike in 2011

Tricare beneficiaries will see no increase in their premiums next year, if Congress approves that provision of the fiscal 2011 defense budget request, as expected. However, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told reporters Monday he wants to work with Congress to find ways to help control escalating military health-care costs that are consuming an ever-increasing chunk of the budget.

Full article at:

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

ROA comments on rural veteran health care

CAPT Marshall Hanson
Legislative Director

ROA was invited back to participate in the House Veterans Affair roundtable on the challenges to rural veteran health care. ROA Legislative Director Marshall Hanson talked about the unique challenges of the National Guard and Reserve veteran, and how ROA has been addressing the problems facing rural health care since the Reserve Component was mobilized in 2002.

“The United States is creating a new generation of combat veterans that come from its Reserve Components (RC), many of whom are typically geographically dispersed and in rural areas,” CAPT Hanson told the committee. “Members of the National Guard and Reserves uniquely serve, as as they are veterans who continue to serve even after they are separated from Active Duty. Many of the rural veterans are also National Guardsmen and Reservists who do not have the benefit of being located near or associated with a military base, and are also not near VA facilities or doctors. These veterans often cannot find a way to travel to see a doctor or other health care providers.”

ROA suggested that all options of partnership should be explored, to shorten the distance between patient and health professional Other federal agencies should be considered. Examples of this could be the Department of Homeland Security with Coast Guard bases, or the US Public Health through Indian Health Services.

The biggest challenge that is faced by either TRICARE contractors or Veterans Health Administration is just identifying the wounded warriors. Not only is the problem who they are, but where they are located. While DEERS has improved in identifying these individuals, often these young men and women don’t even know what benefits they are entitled to, so that when they return home, they blend into the landscape. Additional details can be found in ROA’s written testimony here.