September 24, 2009

$35B tanker bid goes for third round

Washington lawmakers on both sides of a $35 billion Air Force contract debate said the latest bidding plan for airborne tanker planes showed promise.

The bidding process for new airborne tankers -- essentially, flying gas stations -- has stumbled twice.

The first bidding process collapsed in 2004 due to allegations of corruption at Boeing. The second bidding process was won by a joint venture between Northrop Grumman and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. But the contract was canceled after the Government Accountability Office backed a Boeing complaint that the contract was awarded unfairly.

The Air Force plans to release a new bidding process Friday, The New York Times reported.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who supports Boeing, said Air Force officials have done a much more precise job of letting bidders know exactly what the criteria will be,

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., who supports Northrop Grumman/EADS, said the Air Force appeared fair and just in deciding not to consider a recent, preliminary World Trade Organization ruling against the venture.

Shelby said he would review the final bidding process to ensure that it provides a level playing field for the competitors and the best capability for the war fighter.