A reader who has expressed concerns about the uproar surrounding the award of the Air Force Tanker Contract sent this to me today. This reader is well-informed regarding problems in the Boeing Company’s business dealings and corruption within the industry-government agency system. -GFS

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Blogs should attack each and every Rep who supports this and keep the light shining on this criminal activity all the while pointing out who is in Boeing’s sphere of influence. When the competition closed Boeing said it was fair. When they didn’t win, they claimed it was unfair and had two high-ranking Air Force personnel fired because of some B.S. accusations. -anonymous

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“Boeing Co.’s legion of congressional supporters vowed Wednesday to force the Air Force’s hand should the service fail to heed the Government Accountability Office’s advice that they reopen competition for the lucrative contract to build a fleet of aerial refueling tankers.

The aircraft giant’s backers on Capitol Hill worked for months to help publicize Boeing’s objections to the Air Force’s Feb. 29 decision to give the $35 billion project to a team led by Northrop Grumman Corp. and EADS, the parent company of Boeing’s European rival Airbus.

But they were buoyed by GAO’s decision Wednesday to uphold Boeing’s formal protest of the contract award after a 100-day review of the Air Force’s contractor selection process.

In a summary of its 69-page unreleased report, GAO said the Air Force made a “number of significant errors that could have affected the outcome of what was a close competition between Boeing and Northrop Grumman.”

GAO provides only nonbinding evaluations of federal contract protests. The Air Force has 60 days to inform GAO of its plans.

Still, armed with GAO’s findings and recommendations, Boeing and its supporters demand the Air Force to open another competition for the tanker procurement contract and pick a new winner.

“We expect them [the Air Force] to make the right decision for this country,” said Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, whose home state of Washington would build the Boeing tankers. “And if they don’t, I would expect Congress to act.”

Murray, a member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, added that all legislative options are on the table in the event the Air Force does not take action on the tanker contract.

“We obviously just found out this decision,” she said. “We will be looking at all our options.”

House lawmakers who have sided with Boeing echoed Murray’s statements as news of the GAO’s findings reverberated across Capitol Hill.

“In light of the GAO’s analysis, the Air Force should reconsider their decision and recompete the contract,” Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., said. “If the Air Force does not do so willingly, I will work in my role on the House Armed Services Committee to take legislative action to require the Air Force to reconsider this decision.”

Boeing’s defense business is headquartered in St. Louis, just outside Akin’s district.

Northrop Grumman’s supporters emphasized that GAO’s findings were merely a reflection of problems with the Air Force’s procurement process — not with the contractor’s proposal.

“While this is a most disappointing decision, the competition is not over,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I am confident the merits of the Northrop Grumman/EADS tanker will be acknowledged.”

Northrop Grumman and EADS planned to turn out their tanker, based on the Airbus A330 commercial aircraft, from a $600 million facility the European partner planned to build in Mobile, Ala.

A groundbreaking was set for June 28, but EADS said the event was scheduled “pending the outcome of the Government Accountability Office review of the tanker contract award.”

Meanwhile, key lawmakers who waited for GAO’s review and carefully avoided taking sides in the contract dispute issued blunt statements ordering the Air Force to get back to work to acquire new refueling tankers.

“The GAO did its work, and the Air Force is going to have to go back and do its work more thoroughly,” House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton, D-Mo., said in a statement.

His counterpart in the Senate, Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., suggested that there may be a more intensive review of the Air Force’s acquisition processes that led to the Feb. 29 award.

“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,” Levin said.

In a statement Wednesday night, Susan Payton, assistant Air Force secretary for acquisition, said service officials are reviewing the GAO decision.”

“As soon as possible, we will provide the Air Force’s way ahead,” Payton said. “We appreciate the GAO’s professionalism and thoroughness in its assessment of the protest of the KC-45A source selection.”

 

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