The U.S. Air Force, which faced congressional skepticism over a $24-million sole-source contract to replace the refrigerators on the Air Force One presidential jets, has decided to scrap the deal.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) in a May 29 letter that the service and White House Military Office have agreed to nix the contract to Boeing [BA]. While the Air Force still believes the two aging Air Force One planes need new refrigerators, it has concluded that termination makes “the most prudent fiscal sense” because it is making progress in developing replacement planes, Wilson said. 

Air Force One is currently a Boeing 747-200B. Photo: White House.
Air Force One is currently a Boeing 747-200B. Photo: White House.

If the new Air Force One “is delayed, the Air Force and White House Military Office will need to re-look at this effort,” she added. “While not optimal, mitigation options exist to ensure food security until new aircraft are delivered.”

Courtney, the ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower and projection forces panel, released a statement June 4 welcoming the Air Force’s decision.

“Even with the understanding that the Air Force One mission brings with it unique requirements and challenges, a $24-million sole-source contract just didn’t pass the smell test,” he said. “I commend the Air Force for reversing this decision and look forward to working with them to ensure the next-generation Air Force One program stays on schedule.”

Courtney had questioned the refrigerator contract in a Feb. 8 letter to Wilson, saying the Air Force did not seem to adequately consider holding a competition to obtain the refrigerators.

He also wondered whether it made sense to buy new refrigerators that would not be ready until 2020, only four years before the new planes are slated to achieve their initial operational capability.

In February, Boeing reached a $3.9 billion agreement with the White House to develop and build two new Air Force One aircraft (Defense Daily, Feb. 27).