This terrible record of acquisition performance does not link to lack of money: $52 billion has been authorized for the program. Nor is some great technological leap involved. The KC-46 is a "variant" of the Boeing 767, an airliner that has been in the skies for 30 years and already gone through half a dozen variations. At the current pace, 15 years will have passed between when the Air Force decided to build a tanker based on well-established existing aircraft, and when the new planes actually are fueling Air Force aircraft. (The entire B-24 bomber project -- the most-produced U.S. military aircraft ever -- took six years from first test flight to final model off the assembly line.) Nine years will have passed between when Gates said he was giving his full attention to the problem, and the first tanker reaching service.
What does Gates have to say in his book about the Air Force project? He complains that at the Pentagon, when "anyone elected" from Alabama was on the phone -- the Airbus competitor would have been built in the Yellowhammer State -- the call was whining about tanker politics. That does sound excruciating. But it was his job to fix the tanker program, and Gates failed completely. Now he wants to sell you a book about how everyone else is to blame.
How Did Denver Do It? Was Bill Belichick too clever by half? Riding a streak of strong performances by the revitalized New England rushing attack, he went into Denver and had the Patriots call just 14 running plays and 42 passes. (That figure adjusts for sacks and scrambles.) Did the unexpectedly ideal conditions cause Belichick to yield to his normal pass-wacky self, after three consecutive bad-weather rush-oriented games in Massachusetts? Was he attempting reverse psychology -- passing because he expected Denver to expect runs? The Patriots executed a lot of play fakes, suggesting they wanted to establish the run, then started play-faking but forgot the first part of that equation.
CBS color man Phil Simms repeatedly stated the Patriots were throwing because the Broncos have a highly ranked run defense and a low-ranked pass defense. But those stats are artifacts of Denver jumping to big leads, resulting in second halves in which opponents abandon the run while the Broncos drop into a Cover 3. Teams that win by big margins often have great rush defense stats and weak pass defense stats. Denver finished the regular season seventh in rushing yards allowed -- but defended just 420 running plays, one of the league's lowest figures. Denver finished 27th in passing yards allowed -- but defended 613 passing plays, one of the league's highest figures.
Maybe Belichick thought the Denver secondary would collapse with Chris Harris out injured, replaced by the graying Champ Bailey. Maybe the pop-psychology explanation of the New England sideline was that Flying Elvii offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel, former head coach at Denver, wanted to show he and Tom Brady could out-pass Manning -- because in the current football reality, throwing is viewed as more manly than running. Whatever happened, the New England offensive game plan was too clever by half.