Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) issued the following brief statement on today’s hearing at the House Armed Services Committee on the agreement  between the United States Air Force and the Boeing Corporation for the lease of 100 Boeing 767s to be converted into aerial refueling tankers to replace the Air Force’s oldest KC-135 tankers:

“Today’s hearing underscored both the viability of this agreement between the Air Force and Boeing and the Air Force’s commitment to this innovative plan.  The Air Force believes that beginning to retire its KC-135Es as soon as possible will result in significant cost savings for two important reasons.  First, the operating costs of a newer, more efficient aircraft such as the 767 tanker are considerably lower than those of the KC-135Es.  Second, by retiring KC-135Es, the taxpayer will not have to pay for the expensive maintenance, upgrades, and modifications that will be increasingly necessary to keep these aircraft flying.  The cost to the taxpayer of the maintenance, upgrades, and modifications to the KC-135Es in the absence of a 767 lease would be greater than the cost of these interest payments.  There is a fiscal benefit to the American taxpayer from this lease proposal – and a cost associated with not proceeding with retirement of the KC-135Es. 

“This plan is a good one and it is important that we move forward on this to get the Air Force the tankers they need as soon as possible.  In recent military operations, airlift capabilities have proved critical.  At a time when our forces are active around the world, it is critical that we take the action the Air Force has requested to enable them to serve that key role. I’ve argued for years that we need to modernize our military and invest in tomorrow's technology, to ensure that America's fighting men and women have the tools and equipment they need to fulfill their missions.  The tanker agreement means that our Air Force will be better able to face the challenges of tomorrow and meet the tasks we ask of them – we’re giving them the tools they need to support missions and win.”