April 18, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Buffenbarger: The U.S. Air Force's Billion Dollar Mistake

However, lawmakers must insist to the secretary of the Air Force and other DOD officials that the procurement decision be limited solely to Afghanistan. A 27 nation Building Partnership Capacity program of record should not be allowed to stand on the unique and irregular Afghan requirements and the use of unique wartime procurement authority. Procurement officials must be required to follow proper requirements and procurement processes if they seek to establish a program of record worth north of $9 billion for 26 countries dissimilar from Afghanistan in multiple and unassessed ways.

Members of the House Armed Services Committee should no longer neglect to press Air Force officials on this critical issue as they did during their last hearing. Putting pressure and increasing accountability for the Air Force will protect the American taxpayer, it will protect the purchasers of the program of record, and it will include proper consideration of the value and reliability of the American worker. All of this will produce a thoughtful, informed procurement, which is the goal after all. Our workers can and do produce the finest weapons in the world if given the opportunity of a fair requirements development process and formal acquisition.

As the president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, I am proud of the high quality aircraft that our members at Beechcraft have produced for the Air Force. Together with the company we are confident that we have built a superior, cost effective product that will serve the ongoing needs of our military trainers, as well as the allied militaries around the globe that will want to purchase the AT-6, and, eventually, other U.S.-made aircraft. But first, the Air Force and the Defense Department must correct the scope of the LAS procurement.

Thomas Buffenbarger is the president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

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