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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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By Ringold on 6/20/2008 3:45:45 AM , Rating: 0
worked as a community organizer and civil rights attorney after graduating from Harvard.

That, sir, is not the background of a 'moderate'. It's the background of someone with an ideological axe to grind. His record to date shows no indication of being "moderate."

His campaign and "inner circle" is made up of big business lobbyists and he has a personal history of doing favors for campaign donors and special interests. Used to stand against prejudice and bigotry, but now panders

For someone that accused the OP of ignorance, why don't you go look at who voted for one of the larger pork-fests in recent history, the Farm Bill? Obama voted for it. McCain voted against it. I find it difficult to see how McCain voting against the Republican heartland proves he is somehow pandering to traditional Republican interests.

The fact is that he is and continues to be a maverick. This will probably cost him some traditional conservative votes in November.

Hell, even CNN occasionally mentions that he hasn't firmly secured his 'base'. Do you leave DailyKos for news at all?

supporter of Iraq War.

Along with most of the Senate. Except Obama. Who, for the record, didn't have the opportunity to prove his stance because he was still a nobody at that point.

not to mention starting a useless war that has killed over 4,000 soldiers and injured 30,000.

FUD. Lies. You can't prove that. That exists only in your imagination. The full responsibility for Iraq rests on one mans shoulders, and those would be George Bush's. No one else had access to all the intelligence, not McCain, Hillary, or Obama. Only Bush.

and taking the focus off of Afghanistan

We've actually been redeploying some of our forces out of the region you noted and in to the South to reinforce our (pathetic) allies, because our boys have done such a good job at putting a lid on things there. Beyond that, McCain advocated for the 'surge' in Iraq, which was a military success. You yourself apparently advocate a similar tactic now for Afghanistan. Thanks for agreeing with McCain's playbook.

It has been an enormous waste of hundreds of billions a year,

We've not been attacked by a traditional military force since WW2. We were able to keep the Soviet Union at bay for a sufficient amount of time to allow their state-run economies to fail. And now, we provide the ultimate check against Chinese aggression, who I imagine would invade Taiwan in a New York minute if we weren't an active global super-power who supported Taiwan. It's easy to quantify the costs of defense spending, but it's not at all easy to quantify the costs of scrapping our ability to project power.

meanwhile budgets in areas such as public education, college tuition grants, the national science foundation and other scientific research, medicare/medi-caid, assistance to the poor, etc has been repeatedly cut.

Analysis has repeatedly shown that our public education system doesn't need more money, as countries who throw money at it show little/no improvement. We need better policy. College tuition grants is the primary driver behind tuition rate hikes; too much money chasing too few goods is called inflation. More grants, higher costs for those not blessed with government handouts. If by 'assistance for the poor' you mean welfare, the mid-90s welfare cuts reduced poverty, not increased it, and there is bipartisan recognition of that. As for the NSF, yeah, I tend to think they do decent work, so I'll at least let you have that one.

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