September 16, 2009

Pentagon lobbied on aerial tankers

Political supporters of Boeing Co. are trying to persuade defense officials to give the U.S. company the lucrative contract for a new aerial refueling tanker. reported Wednesday that Boeing backers want the Pentagon to keep in mind a recent World Trade Organization ruling that European Union governments illegally subsidized Airbus, whose parent, EADS, has teamed with Northrop Grumman in an attempt to win the new Air Force tanker deal.

Much is at stake in this competition and I want to ensure the actions of the (Department of Defense) do not unintentionally penalize our domestic industry, which has already lost market share, or for that matter, further injure our American workforce who has suffered job loss in this critical economic sector, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates that was released to the public Tuesday.

The same day, 47 U.S. representatives released a letter they sent to President Barack Obama, also saying the tanker bid should take into account the WTO ruling.

Buying Airbus tankers would reward European governments with Department of Defense dollars at the same time that the U.S. Trade representative is trying to punish European governments for flouting international laws, they wrote.

Northrop-EADS won the bid last year but Boeing got a mulligan when the Pentagon decided to redo the contract after congressional auditors found serious flaws in the process. The new request for tanker proposals is expected to be issued this month.

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., wrote last week to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk that linking the WTO ruling to the tanker would be a grave mistake with severe consequences to both our economy and trade relations. The Northrop-EADS aircraft would be assembled in Alabama.

The White House deferred comment on the situation, reported.