Air Force cancels $24 million contract for new AF1 refrigerators

Rep. Joe Courtney objected to a $24 million contract for the new refigerators.

The U.S. Air Force is canceling a $24 million contract with Boeing to replace two aging refrigerators on Air Force One, and will review more affordable options after the seemingly excessive cost drew complaints from Congress.

After learning about the $24 million price tag, Rep. Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, wrote Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson on Feb. 8 to express his “deep concern” that the Defense Department did not pursue a “competitive sourcing process.”

Now Courtney is commending the Air Force for reversing its decision.

“Clearly, the Air Force is making the right decision to cancel the previously announced sole-source contract and hit restart on this process,” Courtney stated. “Even with the understanding that the Air Force One mission brings with it unique requirements and challenges, a $24 million sole-source contract just didn’t pass the smell test.”

At issue was the planned upgrade to refrigerator systems on the presidential aircraft, which is essentially a customized Boeing-747, known in the military as the VC-25A.

The current coolers came with the planes when they were delivered decades ago and have struggled to remain operative in hot and humid conditions.

Had the contract been executed, the new fridges were expected to be installed by 2020, only four years before a new fleet of presidential aircraft is expected to come into service in 2024 – complete with its own refrigerator system.

Wilson, a former House Republican from New Mexico, wrote Courtney on Monday to break the news of the canceled contract.

“The Air Force, working with the White House Military Office, recently reviewed the investment for the VC-25A chiller replacement and jointly decided to terminate the effort,” Wilson noted. “While not optimal, mitigation options exist to ensure food security until new aircraft are delivered.”

Wilson said that if the new planes are not delivered on time, the Air Force and White House Military Office would “need to relook” at the effort to replace the coolers.