Predictably, Boeing Fans Thrilled; Less So For NGC,
Below is a small sample of responses to Wednesday's surprise
announcement by the Government Accountability Office, which sided
with a protest filed by Boeing over the US Air Force's February 29
awarding of the KC-X tanker contract to a team comprised of
Northrop Grumman and EADS.
As ANN reported in Real Time, the GAO
supported Boeing's assertions the USAF's math was flawed in
computing overall costs for each plane... and recommends the Air
Force re-bid the contract. The Air Force has 60 days to consider
the GAO request. It does not have to honor the ruling.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace
Workers (IAM) welcomed the news, saying the GAO report exposed
"serious flaws in the refueling tanker competition that led to a
French-built Airbus being chosen over a US-manufactured Boeing
767." The IAM represents nearly 35,000 Boeing employees in Kansas,
Washington state and other locations across the country.
"This is a major victory for America," said IAM General Vice
President Rich Michalski. "In addition to multi-million dollar
accounting errors and foreign government subsidies, the Air Force
made changes midway in the competition that further favored the
Airbus proposal. The GAO report should be the foundation for
reversing this outrageous award without delay."
"We are confident the Boeing aircraft met every criteria
established by the Air Force and will give our military a superior
aircraft that will serve for decades," Michalski added.
The Air Force Association was less enthusiastic with the
announcement, stating the decision only serves to further postpone
the replacement of aging KC-135 tankers, some of which entered
service nearly 50 years ago.
"The Air Force needs new tankers, and AFA strongly supports that
objective," the group said. "The GAO report released [Wednesday] is
a step in the process, and it appears from the report that a
further delay is inevitable."
AFA noted that on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told
reporters replacing the tankers "is the number-one acquisition
priority of the Air Force. It has to be. It is 10 years overdue.
The average age of this fleet is 47 years old. These planes
desperately need to be replaced, not yesterday, not the year
before, but 10 years ago ... We need to get new tankers in the sky
as soon as possible to support our warfighter. That's where we are.
And I suppose that's where we're going to be tomorrow, as
Those words were prophetic... but from the sound of it, the news
still took Northrop by surprise. Company spokesman Randy Belote
issued the briefest of statements following the surprise ruling,
saying only "We respect the GAO's work in analyzing the Air Force's
tanker acquisition process. We continue to believe that Northrop
Grumman offered the most modern and capable tanker for our men and
women in uniform. We will review the GAO findings before commenting
Sometimes, however, actions speak much louder than words.
Earlier in the day Wednesday, Northrop announced firm plans to
break ground later this month on the facility in Mobile, AL to
perform final completion work on the KC-45A, as well as the Airbus
A330-200 Freighter. The company had planned to break ground on the
plant June 28.
Given the latest wrench thrown into the tanker contract works,
however -- the US Air Force first asked for bids for a KC-135
replacement nearly eight years ago -- that ceremony is probably on