Ten senators today advised President Obama against delaying the Air Force’s KC-X next-generation tanker program and 2018 bomber program.
“We believe that any delay or cancellation of either program constitutes an unacceptable and unnecessary risk to our nation's unique ability to project airpower worldwide,” the group wrote in a letter to the White House.
The senators were reacting to reports claiming the White House Office of Management and Budget has recommended a five-year delay to the tanker program and canceling the next-generation bomber program.
Speaking at a conference in Washington this week, House Appropriations defense subcommittee Chairman John Murtha (D-PA) called the recommendation false. Pentagon Deputy Comptroller Kevin Scheid said, “Probably somewhere along the line someone suggested you need to look at this. And it's been picked up in probably more significance than it ((has)).”
The senators contend that tankers are critical to all U.S. military operations:
As you know, none of our recent military operations would have been possible without the utilization of our tanker fleet. Specifically, our strike aircraft would not have been able to reach and dwell over Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, and Kosovo without a robust aerial refueling capability. However, the mainstay of our aerial tanker fleet, the Eisenhower-era KC-135, is nearly 50 years old. Undoubtedly, these were some of the factors your Administration considered when it articulated, on the White House's website, the importance of aerial tanker recapitalization.
On the subject of the bomber, the senators claim:
The utilization of state-of-the-art stealth technology will be essential to defeat the emerging threat posed by advanced integrated air defense systems. For example, a rogue nation, for a relatively modest sum, could acquire such advanced systems as the Russian-made S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missiles.
Signatories include Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), John Thune (R-SD), David Vitter (R-LA), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Christopher Bond (R-MO), Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Robert Bennett (R-UT).
All of the lawmakers who sent the letter to the president have tanker or bomber connections in their states.