Air Force Tanker Project Clears Panel

Air Force Tanker Project Clears Panel
May 3rd, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Air Force Tanker Project Clears Panel

Air Force Tanker Project Clears Panel
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
May 2, 2008 Dicks vows effort to block contract funding in House
By Eric Rosenberg, P-I Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- A team of Northrop Grumman and EADS cleared a key legislative hurdle when lawmakers announced Thursday that the Senate Armed Services Committee has approved startup funding for a new fleet of Air Force tankers.
"This is great news for the tanker project," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a committee member whose state stands to gain employment from the program. EADS plans to build a tanker-manufacturing facility in Mobile, Ala.
Supporters of The Boeing Co.'s losing bid to build the planes have said they will try to halt the program through congressional action.
But Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate committee, said Thursday that he would not support any such action before the Government Accountability Office rules in mid-June on the merits of an appeal from Boeing. Chicago-based Boeing claims that the Air Force erroneously selected the EADS team for the multibillion-dollar program.
"We are not going to prejudge the (tanker) debate," Levin told reporters. "We need the GAO to reach an independent decision on the (Boeing) appeal. Everybody ought to wait for that."
Sen. John Warner, R-Va., a senior Republican on the committee, said that any effort by Boeing supporters to eliminate tanker funding when the full Senate takes up the committee bill later this month would be "vigorously opposed."
The Air Force stunned the aerospace industry Feb. 29, by choosing a team of Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. and Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman to build a fleet of new midair refueling tankers.
The initial program is valued at around $35 billion but could grow to $100 billion if the consortium wins future Air Force orders.
Boeing's appeal to the GAO -- the investigative arm of Congress -- centers on its claim that the Air Force switched airplane size requirements, initially seeking bids for a medium-size tanker but later selecting a much larger aircraft based on the Airbus A330 commercial jet.
The Senate panel's tanker provision was included in a $542.5 billion military spending bill for next year that was approved behind closed doors.
Boeing supporters in the House hope that they will have more success in their efforts to halt the EADS tanker project.
Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., said last month that the House defense appropriations subcommittee -- of which he is the vice chairman -- will intervene to halt the tanker contract.
"We are going to try to eliminate the funding" for the tanker, Dicks said, and push to "start this thing over again."
Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., also a member of the House defense appropriations panel, said last month that "I don't think the current contract can go forward."
The Pentagon has warned Boeing supporters against trying to remove tanker money just because their favored contractor did not win.
"These are slippery slopes and dangerous precedents," said John Young, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.
"It is going to be dangerous to set aside valid source selections on a political basis," Young said. "Do we have the California delegation kill a program because the Georgia delegation won? Where does that stop?"

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