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The Iron Triangle Manifested: U.S. Air Force Tanker Lease 2001–2005 Case Study

By Shahnaz M. Punjani NWC Case Study

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Executive Summary

The proposed lease of the KC–767 tanker aircraft was one of the most infamous procurement scandals of the post–Cold War era. Interactions within the military-industrial-congressional complex led to legislation permitting the Air Force to lease tankers from Boeing using an operating lease rather than standard procurement. Following the outcry from Congress, industry, the media, and numerous watchdog groups, Congress and the Department of Defense (DOD) launched a wave of investigations and hearings. During the lease debate, participants reached a number of compromises documented in congressional legislation. However, this was not sufficient to continue the lease process. After nearly 4 years, Congress cancelled the tanker lease and directed the Air Force to pursue a traditional procurement approach.

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