Dell Technologies

By Debbie Gregory.

Congress was generous when it passed a spending bill that gave the military at minimum an additional $61 billion, boosting its overall budget to $700 billion this year.

For even the most serious of shopaholics, spending upwards of $300 billion in the final quarter of fiscal 2018 would be challenging. But spend it government agencies will, rather than giving the money back to the Treasury Department.

The spending spree must be completed by September 30th.  Through August, defense and civilian agencies obligated some $300 billion in contracts. But to spend all the money appropriated to them by Congress, they may have to obligate well over $200 billion more.

Predicting how much the government will spend on contracts is more or less an estimation, but no agency wants to have to return unused funds.

“As big as this year’s defense budget looks, it’s not enough to fix the problems,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry, who heads the House Armed Services Committee. “The first job of the federal government is to defend the country.”

More than 80 percent of the decision-makers surveyed by Government Business Council said they expected to spend their remaining budget dollars on existing contract vehicles.

“There’s one thing the Department of Defense is good at — it’s spending money quickly,” said Todd Harrison, who tracks military spending at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The most common near-term purchases reported by the surveyed decision-makers were professional services (34 percent), human capital products (29 percent), office management products (28 percent) and information technology (26 percent).

“We’re going to have to make a decision as a nation about our overall defense strategy and the role of our military,” said Harrison. “If you want to maintain the same level of involvement in the world, then you’re going to need to fund a larger military.

By Debbie Gregory.

Despite the government’s lack of confidence in Boeing’s ability to deliver the KC-46 Pegasus military aerial refueling aircraft, Boeing has forecast delivery of 18 units by year’s end.

“Boeing has been overly optimistic in all of their scheduled reports,” Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told the House Armed Services Committee. “One of our frustrations with Boeing is that they’re much more focused on their commercial activity than they are on getting this right for the Air Force.”

Boeing’s design was seen as relatively low risk as the tanker bid was based on a modified commercial 767 passenger jet. But delivery of the first KC-46 aircraft is expected to be more than a year late.

Boeing has 34 tankers in various phases of completion.

Before delivery can be made, Boeing must conduct flight tests to certify that:

  • The F-16 fighter and the C-17 transport jet are capable of receiving fuel from the tanker under all conditions;
  • The new tanker can be refueled by the older KC-135 tanker; and
  • The newly developed fix for the camera systems is operational.

The price tag for the development and production of 179 tankers is estimated to be $41 billion.

In the international marketplace, the delays gave an advantage to the KC-46’s competition, the Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport. But the USAF had awarded the development contract to Boeing which, at the time,  was declared “the clear winner” under a formula that considered the bid prices, how well each of the planes met war-fighting needs and what it would cost to operate them over 40 years

The tanker features a new advanced refueling boom that extends 58 feet out from the rear of the aircraft, a rigid pipe with wings sprouting either side to make it maneuverable.

In contrast to the older KC-135 tankers currently in use by the Air Force today, the KC-46 the operator sits at a computer station behind the tanker’s cockpit instead of laying prone on their belly at the rear of the plane. The cameras provide the visuals rather than the operator having to look out a window at the receiving aircraft.

“When you are flying and fighting at night, the capabilities of the cameras are a game-changer,” said Sean Martin, the KC-46 chief boom operator. “On this airplane, it’s the same as daytime.”