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Mon, Apr 21, 2008

Washington Lawmaker Threatens To Pull KC-X Funding, Force Rebid

Pentagon Replies, 'Hands Off'

Ever since the US Air Force awarded the contract to build its new aerial refueling tanker to partners Northrup Grumman and EADS, politicians at every level of government have threatened to intervene on behalf of Boeing.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports the Pentagon's top acquisition official is warning Congress not to interfere with the decision. John Young, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told reporters on Friday that moves to withhold funding would create, "slippery slopes and dangerous precedents.

"It is going to be dangerous to set aside valid source selections on a political basis," Young said. "Do we have the California delegation kill a program because the Georgia delegation won? I don't know where this stops."

As ANN reported, Boeing launched a wide-ranging formal protest with the Government Accountability Office in March, less than two weeks after the selection of the Airbus-sourced KC-45A over Boeing's KC-767. Boeing asserted its offering better-suited the original guidelines laid down by the Air Force for KC-X... and added the USAF then changed its own rules, to make the Airbus plane more competitive.

The Northrop/EADS team subsequently asked the GAO to throw out that protest, saying Boeing -- and its influential supporters in local, state, and federal government positions -- were posturing to drum up nationalistic support over the foreign-sourced KC-45A. The USAF filed a separate request, saying it chose the best plane for the job, period. Both requests were later withdrawn, after Boeing culled its protest down to a few hard, easily-debatable issues.

Representative Norm Dicks is a democrat from Washington state, where Boeing has a major manufacturing presence. He's also vice chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee. He threatened last week to propose eliminating money for KC-X outright, and push to "start this thing over again."

Young responds, "If I am going to demand that certain companies or proposals must win regardless of what they cost, I am going to disadvantage the taxpayer and war fighter. I am going to deliver (a weapon with) less capability for more cost."

The initial contract award is worth $35 billion. Ultimately, the Air Force may order $100 billion in new tankers, but new bidding will be conducted for future project phases.

FMI: www.af.mil, www.globaltanker.com, www.northropgrumman.com/kc45/

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