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Washington Guv Raises Possibility Of Legal Action If KC-X Doesn't Go To Boeing

Gregoire Believes Hometown Team Will Win Contract

At this writing, Boeing hasn't lost the US Air Force's KC-X contract to provide the service with new tankers just yet -- and many analysts feel a Boeing win over a team comprised of EADS and Northrop Grumman is all-but assured. But that didn't stop the governor of Washington from threatening a possible legal protest if Boeing is denied the contract.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday after a meeting with the state's congressional delegation, Gov. Chris Gregoire said the state could file a congressional inquiry or take another course of action if Boeing isn't awarded the KC-X deal.

A decision from the Air Force was originally said to be coming as soon as Wednesday evening... though officials said Wednesday afternoon not to expect an annoucement until Friday, at the earliest.

Gregoire then stressed she still believes Boeing will come out on top, reports The Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "I'm banking on us getting it," she said. "I just think we win if it's done absolutely without politics, based on experience, work force, all of that. So I'm feeling good about this.

"If we don't win, then I think there'll be a lot of questions asked about why in the world would Boeing, with that work force, that expertise, that experience, that history -- how could they not have gotten this?" Gregoire then added, muddying the waters somewhat. "My sense is there'll be a lot of questions raised and then we'll get into the protest."

Of course, Gregoire isn't the first person to raise the ominous specter of legal action, from either side of the hotly-contested KC-X battle. As ANN has reported extensively, Boeing is offering its KC-767 aerial refueling platform to replace 179 aging KC-135 tankers in the Air Force fleet; Northrop/EADS has countered with a variant of its KC-330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport.

Boeing recently delivered the first KC-767 to Japan, albeit one year behind schedule; the KC-330 is still undergoing development.

The contract to be awarded shortly is the first of three phases of the KC-X program, which aims to ultimately replace 502 aging tankers. Both sides have appealed to lawmakers in Washington and Kansas (Boeing) and Alabama (EADS/Northrop) to support their respective bids, touting new jobs and economic growth.

Federal law allows losing bidders on federal contracts to appeal to the Government Accountability Office, if they allege the agency involved violated terms of the procurement agreement when selecting the winning contract.

Such a battle is now underway with another Air Force program -- the CSAR-X search-and-rescue helicopter bid, which was originally awarded to Boeing's HH-47 in November 2006. Losing bidders Sikorsky and Lockheed promptly lodged protests... and the Air Force, after some stalling, agreed to reopen the bidding process last year.

There's also a fair amount of political irony here... as in 2005, Gregoire was among the most vocal supporters of efforts by three Washington counties to bring the KC-30 assembly plant to the state.

FMI: www.af.mil, www.boeing.com, www.governor.wa.gov

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