Prototype Tankers?

By Dan Dupont / September 19, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Among the many initiatives being punted to the next administration is, of course, the new Air Force tanker, something that has occupied one of the presidential contenders -- Sen. John McCain -- for quite a while.

Today's Inside the Air Force brings word that the Air Force's top acquisition executive is open to embracing a relatively new Pentagon policy -- competitive prototyping -- for the next tanker:

During a broad-ranging interview with Inside the Air Force this week, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition Sue Payton pulled the curtain back on several aspects of the collapse of the service's KC-X tanker competition and what acquisition officials are doing to make sure it does not happen again.

Payton -- who has served as the Air Force's top weapons buyer since 2006 -- discussed the need for competition for military contracts and was extremely supportive of Pentagon acquisition chief John Young's guidance for the services to invest more in the research and development phases of programs, which includes prototyping.

"We could have invested and had a fly-off and had some real concrete data," Payton said on the tanker competition during the Sept. 17 interview.

When asked if she supported prototyping in the next go-round of bidding, Payton replied, "I tell you what, I would."

Whether Sen. McCain would is another question.

Another good question: If McCain wins -- or, for that matter, if Sen. Obama wins -- will the author of the prototyping policy, Pentagon acquisition chief John Young, stick around?

More reading, from last September: