Moseley promises cleaner procurement

Dealing with the aftershocks of an Air Force rocked by scandal over contracts, sex and religion, Gen. T. Michael Moseley has promised Congress a clean house if he becomes the next Air Force chief of staff.

At a confirmation hearing yesterday, Moseley said he appreciated how enormous the task of heading the Air Force is and acknowledged that the service has made mistakes, especially in procurement, and is now paying “dearly.”

Moseley received a mostly warm reaction from the Senate Armed Services Committee, with Chairman John Warner (R-Va.) pledging his “personal commitment to assist in every way possible.”

The Pentagon has warily watched Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was pivotal in thwarting the Air Force’s lease of Boeing 767 refueling tankers and whose demand for documents relating to the tanker deal prompted Gen. Gregory “Speedy” Martin, commander of the Air Force’s Materiel Command, to withdraw his nomination to head the U.S. Pacific Command even though he had been thought a surefire candidate.

Air Force and Pentagon leaders pushed  for the $23.5 billion lease of Boeing’s 767 tankers in what became one of the latest procurement scandals. The upshot has been a wounded service, resignations and the imprisonment of two Boeing executives.

“You clearly advocated for the Boeing 767 tanker lease deal,” McCain told Moseley, citing the general’s previous testimony to the panel and 300 e-mails the senator has reviewed as part of the tanker investigation, “After exhausting investigations we now know that Air Force leadership failed to follow acquisition statutes and legislation. If we hadn’t stopped [the deal] it would have cost the taxpayer 7 billion additional dollars. You zealously pursued the tanker lease deal.”

Moseley assured the panel that to avert procurement fiascos in future the Air Force would revert to the traditional buying process. “If confirmed, I look forward to working for enhancements in the traditional process in acquisition reform,” he added.

He decried the lack of uniformed Air Force personnel overseeing acquisition, saying that with more such oversight the tanker scandal could have been averted. “I think that by putting back the uniformed people into the acquisition process in the right places [that] would have provided oversight,” he said.

Air Force downsizing has meant the loss of program mangers, engineers, testers and evaluators from the acquisition professional staff, and “we are paying dearly for that,” Moseley said, adding, “I am committed to work with the committee and the department to put the people back in as an oversight function.”

The Air Force has been rocked in the past week by revelations that officers and faculty at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs used their positions to promote Christian beliefs without accommodating the needs of non-Christian cadets. That controversy follows two years of allegations that female cadets have been sexually abused by the men while the academy turned a blind eye. Moseley told the panel that the Air Force has zero tolerance for criminal conduct and is now including sexual propriety in training and education, and investing $17.8 million in victim advocacy personnel and programs.

“We are all very much aware of the problems the Air Force has faced over the past few years,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who introduced Moseley, a fellow Texan, at the hearing. “These challenges provide even more reason why the Air Force needs a leader the caliber of Buzz Moseley as chief of staff.”

Moseley now serves as the vice chief of staff and was commander of the 9th Air Force and U.S. Central Command Air Forces during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

Two other nominees had to answer tough questions about the war in Iraq and the armed forces’ retention and recruitment problems. Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, who stands to become the first Marine to be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Adm. Edmund Giambastiani, who is slated to become his vice chief, were asked whether more U.S. troops are needed in Iraq, and whether Iraq should stick to the timetable  for adopting its constitution.