The Air Force has canceled a nearly $24 million order for two new refrigerators for the Air Force One fleet after the purchase came under congressional scrutiny.
“It was a big investment for jets that will be replaced in about five years,” said Richard Aboulafia, a consultant with the Virginia-based Teal Group, “Assuming it’s feasible a repair looked like a better idea.”
The decision to cancel the order was announced after U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., said he was “disappointed” in the lack of competition for the Boeing order in a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson.
“I fully appreciate that the VC-25A mission brings with it very unique requirements and that challenges always exist when maintaining aging platforms,” Courtney wrote. “However this case raises serious questions about the Air Force’s contracting process.”
The Air Force, with the White House Military Office, jointly decided to scuttle the contract after reviewing progress on the $3.9 billion program to replace the current presidential air fleet with two Boeing 747-8s, designated as the VC-25B program, and the cost of the refrigeration units, according to Wilson.
“If the VC-25B program is delayed, the Air Force and White House Military Office will need to re-look at this effort,” she wrote.
Boeing deferred questions Wednesday to the Air Force about the cancellation.
The Presidential Airlift Recapitalization Directorate, based at Wright-Patterson with about 100 employees, has oversight of the program to replace the existing fleet of two Boeing 747-200 jets by 2024.
Prior to taking office, then President-elect Donald Trump threatened to cancel the program because of concerns over costs, but he later announced a deal with Boeing.
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, which has a large presidential aircraft collection, has hopes to display one of the jumbo jets at Wright-Patterson when the current VC-25A fleet is retired.
“Acquiring a VC-25 is an exhibit requirement and allows the museum to continue telling the Air Force story of its decades-long mission of being the executive agent for presidential fixed-wing airlift,” museum spokesman Rob Bardua said in an email.
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