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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 Grast on 6/19/2008 2:04:10 PM , Rating: 3
Politics not with standing....

Every Democratic president since Jimmy Carter has cut military spending in favor of more domestic programs. I will not go into the types of programs because is does not really mater. Democratic party members have never supported funding for the military. While I do not have a source, it is common sense and a fact of history that Jimmy Carter and Clinton both cut military spending by extremely large amounts.

I did not bring up prior democratic presidents due to the party members being of a different mind set.

Regardless of politics, Obama will most likely cut military spending to pay for any number of his ADVERTISED domestic programs such as United Health Care, Social Security Reform, and Further Expanded Educational programs.


RE: That's not quite how it works...
By maverick85wd on 6/19/2008 4:52:19 PM , Rating: 2
Regardless of politics, Obama will most likely cut military spending to pay for any number of his ADVERTISED domestic programs such as United Health Care, Social Security Reform, and Further Expanded Educational programs.

*Cringe* I pray to god you are wrong. Especially if he puts the money into united health care. I don't want my tax dollars spent on my or anyone else's health care. I will pay for it myself and expect others to do the same. TANSTAFL!

By BZDTemp on 6/20/2008 1:58:27 PM , Rating: 3
Well I hope for you that neither you or your family should ever fall on hard times and loose medical coverage then.

Living in a country where everyones medical is covered by the state, education is free (students even gets grants to live on while studying) and where the minimum wage is on par with the average wage of the US it seems to me you guys have the wrong system. We may pay a lot of tax but we can afford it and no one is dying of poverty. Heck we even make the top three every time there is a study on happiness, security, democracy, unemployment (1.8%) and even our women are beautiful :-)

RE: That's not quite how it works...
By blackened160 on 6/19/2008 10:24:49 PM , Rating: 3
While I do not have a source, it is common sense and a fact of history that Jimmy Carter and Clinton both cut military spending by extremely large amounts.

Well mislead! A quick gander at historical "facts" would show Bush Sr. cut almost as much off military spending in his term (mostly after the Gulf War) as Clinton did in his two terms. And while Carter cut spending, he actually ended his term spending more than when he started. Also remember neither president was in a war, or posturing for a war.

If we follow the historical pattern, both Obama and McCain will cut military spending, unless the US decides to invade another country.

By Ringold on 6/20/2008 3:24:58 AM , Rating: 1
Carter was very much in a war, the Cold War. In fact, Carter made it quite a bit more warm with his moralistic brow-beating.

As for H.W. Bush, the Soviet Union was collapsing. I don't know what the budget did under him exactly, so not providing cover for him, but I know a lot of Cold War era naval and air patrols ceased at some point between then and now.

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