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Tue, Feb 17, 2009

Murtha Renews Call For Splitting KC-X Contract

Says Boeing, Northrop/EADS Should Each Win

It wouldn't be the most cost-effective solution... but it may just be the best possible hope for peace in our time, at least when it comes to the US Air Force's problematic call for a new generation of aerial refueling tankers.

The chairman of the House appropriations subcommittee, Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha, renewed his call Monday for the Pentagon to consider splitting the $35 billion KC-X contract between Boeing and a consortium made up of EADS and Northrop Grumman. "I'm trying to figure out a way to convince the secretary of defense to at least look at two airplanes, or both of them," Murtha told Reuters following a tour of Boeing's widebody aircraft production facility in Everett, WA Monday.

Murtha's statements are direct affronts to the Pentagon, which has been adamant that one aircraft would be the most cost-effective solution for taxpayers.

Alas, two previous rounds of bidding -- the first awarded to Boeing, the second won by EADS -- failed to reach fruition. Last year's contract was pulled by the Department of Defense over GAO concerns about miscalculation of true operating costs for the EADS-sourced KC-45A, while the original 2002 Boeing win was retracted after revelations of a full-on procurement scandal came to light.

In the meantime, over seven years of indecision on KC-X have left Air Force leaders with little alternative other than to continue flying their aged KC-135 tankers... and possibly sticking pins in their Darleen Druyun dolls.

The Congressman's solution to split the deal may not be the most elegant way to resolve the KC-X quagmire, but it might score points for being the most pragmatic. "My decision is not where the contract goes, but to come up with the money to pay for the contract once the Air Force makes a decision," said Murtha. "We are trying to come up with ways to get the military to make a decision earlier."

Murtha called for a contract split last month, when he visited the Northrop/EADS facility in Mobile, AL where final assembly would take place on the Airbus A330-derived KC-45A, alongside the A330-200 Freighter. Boeing's KC-767 would be built in Everett, with final outfitting being done in Wichita, KS.

The Congressman concedes other decisions must be made before the DoD tackles KC-X... specifically, whether the Pentagon will continue funding for the F-22 Raptor advanced fighter aircraft. As ANN reported, President Obama is expected to make that decision sometime before March 1.

Dealing with the KC-X mess would be easier, Murtha said, "If we can get the F-22 out of the way. I don't mean to cancel the program... We fund it or get rid of it, one way or the other."



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