|Your comments on the following please. Does the US military always operate like this to get their equipment?
McCain prods US Air Force to explain doctored data
Friday February 13, 2:21 pm ET
By Andrea Shalal-Esa
WASHINGTON, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Sen. John McCain on Friday demanded that Air Force Secretary James Roche explain why officials altered data on the threat of corrosion to refueling planes -- a key argument in the drive to lease and buy 100 tanker replacements from Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA - News)
The Arizona Republican, who spearheaded a congressional investigation of the tanker deal, asked Roche to fully explain the matter by Feb. 27, ahead of his scheduled appearance at March 2 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
"Please provide a full explanation of why, in response to a specific request for exact copies of slides originally presented at Tinker AFB, did your office produce documents with data favorable to the lease proposal inserted and unfavorable data deleted," McCain wrote in the letter to Roche.
No comment was immediately available from the Air Force on the McCain letter.
The dispute dates back to last October, when two staff members of the committee went to a maintenance depot at Tinker Air Force Base near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to investigate the level of corrosion on existing Air Force KC-135 tankers.
Air Force experts there provided them with data that showed significantly lower levels of decay on the aging planes than officials in Washington had been claiming as part of their drive to win approval for the $27.6 billion lease deal.
The congressional aides were shown slides indicating that six of nine major components had been replaced in less than 2 percent of the 82 aircraft surveyed during a 30-month period starting Oct. 1, 1999.
But the Air Force deleted this data -- which undercut the argument about the urgent need to begin replacing tankers -- when a copy of the presentation was given to the committee, providing it only after McCain threatened a subpoena.
Committee Chairman John Warner, a Virginia Republican and ranking Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin (News) of Michigan, also jumped on the issue at a confirmation hearing for Pentagon chief arms buyer Michael Wynne last year and demanded a full explanation.
But this week, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper told the panel he was totally unaware of the matter.
"Given the seriousness of this matter, why these concerns have not been conveyed to General Jumper is unclear," McCain told Roche. "Indeed, the nonchalance that Air Force and Defense Department leadership has shown about this episode to date is disturbing."
McCain said officials in Roche's office initially said the slides shown to the Senate staffers had been destroyed and that those who prepared them were on leave or unavailable. When pressed, they produced slides with that information deleted.
"Only after I raised the specter of a subpoena did your office produce copies of the slides, with the salient information reinserted," he said in demanding an explanation.
The proposed Air Force deal to lease 20 tankers and buy up to 80 more is on hold pending a criminal investigation -- a probe that Wynne this week said could take another six months.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last week said it appeared there had been "wrongdoing" in the negotiations and ordered a new study of whether new tankers were needed.