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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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RE: That's not quite how it works...
By Ammohunt on 6/19/2008 2:02:02 PM , Rating: 0
It was one of the first things Clinton did when he got into office and he was a moderate Democrat. Obama being radical leftist i expect he will destroy the military completely not to mention they will have a hard time keeping people in with him as commander in chief. I purposefully left the ARMY becasue of Clinton becoming president.

RE: That's not quite how it works...
By oab on 6/19/2008 4:18:16 PM , Rating: 3
...Obama being radical leftist...

Radical leftist?

Because Obama = Vladimir Lenin or Mao Zedong.

I do sense hyperbole however, as "destroy the military completely", well ... put it this way. If Barack Obama becomes president, he won't pass a bill that completely dissolves the armed forces and sells off all military property. Shrink? Yes. Destory competely? No.

Although, if cuts are more significant than the Clinton ones, it will be significantly smaller than what it is now (up to 35%?).

RE: That's not quite how it works...
By winterspan on 6/20/08, Rating: -1
RE: That's not quite how it works...
By RjBass on 6/20/2008 10:37:28 AM , Rating: 2
Wow, I spent the majority of my active duty time in the Army under Clinton and they were the best years of my military career. When Bush got into office was when things really started going down hill really fast.

By Shining Arcanine on 6/23/2008 7:40:57 PM , Rating: 2
My uncle served in the Air Force under Carter and later under Reagan and he told me that life under Carter in the Air Force was lousy. It is the complete opposite of what you have to say. Perhaps that is because you did not have to worry about dying during the Clinton administration, because the Cold War had ended during the previous Bush administration.

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