Almost There

By Marcus Weisgerber / September 26, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted today to confirm Michael Donley as Air Force secretary. The committee approval comes more than three months after Defense Secretary Robert Gates nominated Donley for the position.

Donley's confirmation vote has been hung up in the Senate for months after Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) put a block on his nomination because she felt the Pentagon would not conduct a fair rebid of the prolonged Air Force aerial refueling tanker competition.

The Air Force awarded the KC-X contract to a Northrop Grumman-EADS team in February; however, the Government Accountability Office sustained a protest from Boeing and recommended a full rebid. Boeing planned to build its tanker proposal in Cantwell's home state of Washington.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense took over the tanker competition in July and said it hoped to determine a winner by year's end. But despite laying out an aggressive acquisition schedule, Gates canceled the entire competition earlier this month and said he would leave a decision to the next presidential administration.

If confirmed by the full chamber, Donley -- who has been serving in an acting capacity since June 21 -- will become the Air Force's 22nd secretary. Gates nominated Donley -- who previously served as the Pentagon's director of administration and management -- on June 9.

Donley's nomination came on the heals of Gates' firing of former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley over their handling of several nuclear gaffes. The mishaps led to the firings and reprimands of numerous Air Force officers.

Since then, the Air Force and a number of outsiders have been developing a means of reshaping how the service conducts its nuclear business. A number of high-level decisions are expected to be made during a meeting of the service's top brass at Corona meeting next week, as reported this week by Inside the Air Force.