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  (Source: Northrop Grumman)

Northrop Grumman/EADS KC-45A tanker  (Source: Northrop Grumman)
Boeing wins the battle, but the war continues with the controversial Air Force tanker program.

It looks like the ongoing battle between Northrop Grumman/EADS and Boeing over the $35B Air Force tanker contract will go on for at least another year. Northrop Grumman/EADS won the KC-X tanker competition earlier this year and it was announced that the Airbus A330-based KC-45 would replace the Air Force's existing fleet of 531 KC-135 tanker aircraft.

With foreign hands having a part in the design and construction of the KC-45, some in Congress weren't too happy with the move. "We should have an American tanker built by an American company with American workers. I can't believe we would create French [and British] jobs in place of Kansas jobs," said Todd Tiahrt, a congressman from Kansas.

Boeing filed a formal protest against the Air Force's decision with the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in March. Boeing contended that it deserved the contract due to numerous errors and concessions made during the competition and noted that it provided "75 years of unmatched experience building tankers" and "offered the Air Force the best value and lowest risk tanker for its mission".

It looks as though Boeing has quite a bit of pull in Washington, because the GAO sided with Boeing’s protest. "Our review of the record led us to conclude that the Air Force had made a number of significant errors that could have affected the outcome of what was a close competition," said the GAO in a statement.

"We recommended that the Air Force reopen discussions ... obtain revised proposals, re-evaluate the revised proposals, and make a new source selection decision, consistent with our decision," the GAO continued.

Further stacking future proceedings in Boeing's favor, the GAO reported that the Air Force performed "unreasonable" cost/performance analysis with regards to the Northrop Grumman/EADS entry versus Boeing's competing entry. Had those errors not have been made; the GAO concluded that Boeing would have been the low-cost champion of the competition, and likely the overall winner.

The Air Force will in essence have to start the competition all over again to satisfy the GAO's requests – in the mean time; the aging KC-135 fleet will still take to the skies. "In theory, the air force has 60 days to answer. But in reality, it's obvious they're going to have to start over," said Lexington Institute military analyst Loren Thompson.

EADS, as expected, wasn't exactly elated with the GAO's decision. "Though we are disappointed, it's important to recognize that the GAO announcement is an evaluation of the selection process, not the merits of the aircraft," said EADA spokesman Louis Gallois.

"We will support our partner Northrop and remain confident that the KC-45 is the aircraft best suited to make the Air Force's critical mission requirements, as demonstrated by four previous competitive selections."

Not surprisingly, Boeing is ecstatic about the ruling. "We welcome and support today's ruling by the GAO fully sustaining the grounds of our protest," said Boeing tanker group VP Mark McGraw. "We look forward to working with the Air Force on next steps in this critical procurement for our warfighters."

Supporters of Boeing's protest in Congress also welcomed the GAO's decision. "The GAO's decision in the tanker protest reveals serious errors in the Air Force's handling of this critically important competition. We now need not only a new full, fair and open competition in compliance with the GAO recommendations, but also a thorough review of -- and accountability for -- the process that produced such a flawed result," said Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan).

"The GAO did its work, and the Air Force is going to have to go back and do its work more thoroughly," added Representative Ike Skelton (D-Missouri).

You can read the GAO's full report including seven areas in which it found the Air Force's decision to be flawed here.

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If only Boeing would...
By dever on 6/19/2008 1:12:10 PM , Rating: 2
If Boeing was owned by a crippled minority woman they'd win every contract.

RE: If only Boeing would...
By James Holden on 6/19/2008 1:54:58 PM , Rating: 2
Maybe if she was a vet --

RE: If only Boeing would...
By dever on 6/19/2008 2:03:49 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, Florida just added vets to the list of special interests receiving state preferential treatment. Where's the ACLU when you really need them?

RE: If only Boeing would...
By FITCamaro on 6/19/2008 2:16:38 PM , Rating: 1
Fighting for the rights of illegal aliens and people who do stupid shit and hurt themselves.

RE: If only Boeing would...
By Ringold on 6/19/2008 2:29:14 PM , Rating: 2
Well, whats more concerning, minorities getting preferential treatment who did nothing to deserve it, or veterans?

I'd pick and choose my battles, and let the vets go. But then, I'm a Heinlein fan, and think he was on to something with limited citizenship; not acquired merely by birth, but for doing a little for the country first.

RE: If only Boeing would...
By FITCamaro on 6/19/2008 4:51:33 PM , Rating: 2
True. I've no issue giving veterans anything (within reason). They served their country.

RE: If only Boeing would...
By dever on 6/19/2008 4:54:47 PM , Rating: 2
I wasn't looking to single out Vets specifically (unlike the state). The limited citizenship idea is interesting, I must say... don't know if I agree or not.

However, I dispise the fact that every agency in my state buys their pens and pencils (along with everything else) from catalogs featuring "minority owned" businesses. How in the world can this be defended (legally, morally, rationally)?

We're all "minorities," it's just some are favored more than others. (I'm a white male with occasional back pain and who loves liberty --- heck, the last part alone makes me a minority.)

RE: If only Boeing would...
By Ringold on 6/19/08, Rating: 0
RE: If only Boeing would...
By ikkeman2 on 6/24/2008 5:21:38 AM , Rating: 2
limited citicenship may be a good Idea, but who get's it...
Just the poeple who showed they're willing to kill when told to?
Wouldn't a minimum IQ serve a better purpose - the people who make the decisions at least have the ability to understand the issues? Or maybe limit citizenship based on track record. Only poeple who's lifes are impacted by a decision, and therefore have an interest are allowed to vote.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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