Air Force adjusts big-ticket acquisition programs

Service plans changes to KC-X tanker, F-35 and NETCENTS-2 programs

The Air Force is looking to improve its acquisition activities, starting immediately with the impending contract awards for the KC-X tanker, the F-35 joint strike fighter and the Network-Centric Solutions-2 Enterprise Integration and Service Management program (NETCENTS-2), according to a top Defense Department official.

“Recapturing acquisition excellence in the Air Force is a top priority,” David Van Buren, Air Force assistant secretary for acquisition, said today at an AFCEA Nova luncheon. In particular, “our acquisition cycle times are horrible," he said.

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The Air Force is also taking a cue from the Obama administration’s agenda for accessible information and accountability. “We’re working hard to be transparent,” Van Buren said, pointing to the ongoing KC-X tanker program that he said will be accepting proposals until a July 9 closing date.

“We will be awarding a contract by fall, and we’re working with [Office of the Secretary of Defense],” he added. EADS North America announced on April 20 that it would bid on the project July 8.

In addition, the department is in negotiations for a fourth lot of aircraft under the F-35 joint strike fighter program, Van Buren said.

After releasing long-awaited requirements for the NETCENTS-2 contract March 2, Van Buren said his office is looking to involve small businesses in developing the on-ramp portion of the contract, and while a number of the NETCENTS-2 contracts closed april 1, there are still several still open for bids, but Van Buren did not elaborate on which contracts remain open.

NETCENTS-2 is designed to support the Air Force’s portion of the Global Information Grid.

Van Buren also said a new tactical airlift program could be implemented next year, pending congressional approval and funding.

Despite acquisition inefficiencies, Van Buren highlighted some successful projects the Air Force has gotten off the ground, including the Project Liberty aircraft program, the service’s MC-12W intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance aircraft being deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. “The Project Liberty aircraft program is an example of how we’re working to get [these tools] to the warfighter faster,” he said.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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