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Pentagon takes Air Force's buying power
Pentagon chief weapons buyer now in charge of $200B in Air Force programs for oversight reasons.
March 28, 2005: 7:21 PM EST

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Some $200 billion worth of major Air Force programs were taken over by the Pentagon's chief weapons buyer Monday after a surprise announcement by Department of Defense officials.

The move by Michael Wynne, the undersecretary of defense for acquisitions, technology and logistics, was done in an effort to bring a

"continuity of program oversight" to some of the Air Force's major weapons and space programs after a lack of Air Force civilian leadership left the service with no senior figures to sign off on program decisions.

The announcement was delivered in a Pentagon press release Monday afternoon.

The unusual move follows the departure of Secretary of the Air Force James Roche last January, and last week's announcement that the acting secretary of the Air Force, Undersecretary Peter Teets, left the service as well.

The void of senior leadership in the Air Force left the Department of Defense in the position to take the decision-making authority from the service to "assist the Air Force by overseeing and providing advice on important Air Force programs during a time of transition," a Pentagon statement said.

The announcement suggests the remaining Air Force leadership was not strong enough to make proper decisions on the programs, though officials said it was not a punitive action on the part of the Department of Defense.

The Air Force is still recovering from a botched deal with Boeing (Research) on a multibillion-dollar tanker-leasing program after a former Air Force executive working for Boeing was convicted of violating conflict of interest rules.

The 21 programs Wynne took control of are programs on which major decisions can be made by Air Force executives, not requiring senior Department of Defense officials to sign off on, according to Pentagon officials.

Wynne is the Pentagon's number two for weapons procurement. The number one position has not been filled since 2003, leaving Wynne as the acting head of the acquisition branch. He has been nominated for the chief position, but has not yet been confirmed by Congress.

Among the 21 programs now under control of the Department of Defense is the $59.2 billion Boeing contract for the C-17A Globemaster II advanced cargo aircraft, a plane widely used to transport military equipment to Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the rest of the world.

A $31.7 billion contract with Boeing and Lockheed Martin (Research) for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle as well as radar modernization programs for the B-2 bombers, improvement programs for the massive C-5 cargo plane and an air-to-air missile program, are among others that now fall under Wynne's purview.

Pentagon officials said there was no set timetable for returning the decision-making power to the Air Force, but said it could happen within six months.

Wynne will work with the current acting Air Force secretary, Michael L. Dominguez, until decision-making authority is returned to the Air Force.

The president has not announced any potential nominees to fill the Air Force secretary position or the deputy spot.

-- From CNN Pentagon Producer Mike Mount  Top of page


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