Friday, June 20, 2008

GAO Faults Air Force in Award of Tanker Contract

Some day the Air Force will add a new tanker aircraft to its fleet, but that day may have been pushed back again this week when a government audit found flaws with the service’s decision in February to give a $35 billion contract to Northrop Grumman and the parent company of Airbus. The Government Accountability Office upheld a protest by Boeing, which lost out on the contract, that the Air Force unfairly evaluated the merits and overall cost of the Boeing bid to replace 179 aircraft in the aging KC-135 fleet. The GAO investigation found “a number of significant errors” on the part of the Air Force that could have affected the outcome of the close competition. The Air Force has 60 days to respond to the GAO report released Wednesday.

Analysts now figure the earliest a new tanker can be added to the Air Force arsenal is 2014. The controversy became a political issue because Northrop Grumman and Airbus would have built most of the tanker overseas. The parent company of Airbus, European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), is a French company. However, Northrop Grumman did plan to build a portion of the aircraft at new facilities in Mobile, Ala. On Thursday, the company postponed groundbreaking plans for those facilities. Overall, the contract could be worth as much as $100 billion over 30 years as the Air Force tries to acquire about 400 new tankers.

In 2003, the Air Force planned to lease tankers from Boeing for $20 billion, but a scandal involving an Air Force official and a Boeing executive scuttled that plan.

Friends who've included their posts for your reading pleasure: Right Truth: 'Refusenik' - Refuses to Tell the Whole Story (Right Truth Exclusive).

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