Defense opts for multiyear F/A-18 deal

The Pentagon on Friday notified Congress that it plans to proceed with a multiyear procurement deal with Boeing Co. to buy 124 F/A-18 aircraft between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2013.

"The Navy is in receipt of a viable offer from the F/A-18 prime contractor and is actively pursuing award of the MYP [multiyear procurement] contract to achieve substantial savings," Pentagon comptroller Robert Hale and acquisition chief Ashton Carter wrote.

Lawmakers last year gave the Defense Department the go-ahead to pursue a multiyear deal to buy F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters and E/A-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft. But they set a March 1 deadline to tell Congress whether it would proceed with such a deal and gave officials until May 1 to sign the contract.

Officials asked for, and received, extensions of those deadlines.

In Friday's letter, which was sent to Vice President Joe Biden and the leaders of the congressional defense committees, Hale and Carter said the multiyear purchase would save 10 percent over a traditional contract, for a total savings of $590 million. A 10 percent savings is considered the typical threshold to justify a long-term commitment.

The multiyear contract would cover the 124 Super Hornets and Growlers the Defense Department plans to buy between fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2013, which is 35 aircraft more than was planned a year ago. The planes are based on the same Boeing airframe.

House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee ranking member Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., said the deal would provide stability for the workforce in St. Louis, where the planes are built, and also serve as an "important insurance policy" for the Navy, which is facing a shortfall in its aircraft carrier-based strike fighter jets.

"It is encouraging to see the Navy and DoD come to their senses on this issue, after I have spent two years arguing that a multiyear contract made sense on all fronts," said Akin.

The Navy's fiscal 2011 budget request, sent to Congress Feb. 1, includes $1.9 billion to buy 22 Super Hornets and $1.1 billion for 12 Growlers. In fiscal 2012, the Navy plans to buy 24 more Growlers and one Super Hornet, with 25 more Super Hornets in fiscal 2013.

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