|March 19th, 2008|
Boeing Tries Again To Reverse Tanker Deal info
March 19, 2008 By Joelle Tessler, Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- Boeing Co. said Air Force officials tilted the playing field in a $35 billion tanker-contract competition toward Northrop Grumman Corp. and European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co.
In a formal protest of the contract made public yesterday, Boeing said the Air Force "repeatedly made fundamental but often unstated changes to the bid requirements and evaluation process" to keep the Northrop Grumman/EADS proposal alive.
The release of the protest's executive summary is Boeing's latest public relations salvo in its attempt to overturn the Air Force award of the tanker deal to the Northrop/EADS team. Doing so will not be easy - a fact Boeing acknowledged.
Mark McGraw, manager of Boeing's tanker program, said reversing the Air Force's decision would be "an uphill battle," but he was confident the company would prevail.
Last week, the Chicago-based company filed its protest with the Government Accountability Office, which has 100 days to rule. Boeing maintains that the Air Force review "was not a fair and open competition, but a skewed process that unfairly compromised Boeing's proposal."
Boeing has also turned to several of its existing lobbying firms to press its case. On Monday, Boeing said its tanker could have saved $30 billion in fuel bills over 40 years.
Northrop Grumman chief executive officer Ronald Sugar warned that reversing the tanker award would undermine the entire procurement and defended the Air Force competition as evenhanded. Northrop has hired former Sens. Trent Lott, R-Miss., and John Breaux, D-La., to lobby.
Boeing has supplied fueling tankers to the Air Force for nearly 50 years. The new contract to replace 179 tankers is the first of three Air Force awards worth as much as $100 billion to replace the entire fleet of nearly 600 tankers over the next 30 years.