Officials Say Pentagon Will Reopen $35 billion Tanker Bid

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Congressional sources say the Pentagon will re-compete a $35 billion contract to build the Air Force's fleet of new refueling tankers and pick a new winner by the end of the year.

Reps. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., and Norm Dicks, D-Wash., say the Office of the Secretary of Defense - not the Air Force - will oversee the competition between Boeing Co. and a team led by Northrop Grumman Corp.

The plan, which hands control to the Pentagon's top acquisition chief and sets up a dedicated source-selection committee, indicates that senior civilians at the Defense Department have lost confidence in the Air Force's ability to manage the contract.

The Government Accountability Office last month said Boeing might have won the contract had the service not made mistakes in evaluating the bids.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Statement from Kansas Senator Pat Roberts:
"I am pleased to see that the Department of Defense and the Air
Force have moved to restore the confidence of the Congress and the
American people with this decision to re-compete the contract. There have been critical errors in the procurement of this tanker, and we will work to ensure that this does not happen again so that the best possible tanker is selected for the warfighter. We will need to see the details of the next request for proposal, but this is certainly the right step forward."

Statement from Kansas Senator Sam Brownback:
"I am pleased that Secretary Gates is actively involved in this
process now and has made a commitment to get it right. The issues identified in the GAO report were so significant that nothing short of a re-compete will meet the standard required by the American people to have an appropriate level of confidence in this decision and move the program forward. We will continue to monitor this process very closely the ultimate contract award. We believe that the Boeing KC-767 Advanced Tanker is the right platform for the mission and look forward to the day when the first one is delivered to the Air Force on the Boeing Ramp in Wichita."

Statement from U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kansas
"We have been calling for a re-competition ever since the Air
Force chose to award the KC-X tanker contract to a French tanker, and
today the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) is announcing that is exactly what they plan on doing. After throwing the competition to the French tanker last time, the Department of Defense seems to have acknowledged the Air Force's mistakes and is heeding the Government Accountability Office's recommendation to rebid the competition for a mid-sized tanker. Rebidding the tanker competition in an expedited manner is right thing to do for our men and women in uniform who need new mid-sized tankers to replace the out-dated ones currently in use. I intend to watch this process very closely to press for a fair and open competition. Today I spoke with OSD on a series of topics to reinforce a fair process is followed the second time around."

Statement from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, D-Kansas
“I am pleased with the decision to reopen the bidding on the tanker refueling project. The GAO report identified serious flaws with the original process which disadvantaged an experienced American company. This gives Boeing the fair chance to compete for the business of building tankers, which will greatly benefit our state, other states with a Boeing presence, and our country as a whole. This is the right decision.”

Statement from Jim Slattery, D-Candidate for Senate
"This is not only great news for Boeing, but it's the right decision. It is my hope that once the contract is re-bid it will be awarded to Boeing and that Boeing will continue to play an integral role in the production of military equipment so essential to protecting our nation.

"(Pat) Roberts had two chances to fight for Boeing and Kansas. First as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and then as a member of the conference committee. On both occasions, Roberts failed to fight for the inclusion of the 'Buy American' provisions. Boeing was forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars appealing the Air Force's decision in order to clean up a mess that could have been prevented had Pat Roberts done his job."


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