Idea Draws Strong Opposition From Pentagon, Splits
As a solution to the ongoing controversy about replacing the US'
aerial tanker fleet, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), the chairman of the
House defense appropriations subcommittee, has proposed including a
provision in a defense bill that would split production of new
tankers between top bidders Boeing and Northrop Grumman-EADS, the
Kansas City Star reports.
As ANN reported, the Air Force selected
Northrop Grumman/EADS for the tanker project last year, but rival
bidder Boeing protested the decision. Bidding was reopened after a
Government Accountability Office found flaws with the process...
but the selection of a contractor remains in limbo.
Hanging in the balance is the economic future of both plane
manufacturers. Boeing has proposed modifying its 767 model if
awarded the tanker contract. Northrop Grumman-EADS plans to use the
Airbus A330 airframe. Boeing stands to lose 10,000 jobs between its
Everett, WA and Wichita, KS plants if it loses the contract - which
would at the same time represent a major victory in the defense
market for Northrop-EADS.
Murtha said additional delays in replacing the current aging
fleet of aerial refuelers are unacceptable, and the split contract
would get twice as many new tankers in the air within the same time
frame. Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Rep. Neil Abercrombie, (D-HI)
also have expressed support for a split buy.
Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS), said that Murtha was wrong. "I think
there is going to be a lot of pressure from labor," Dicks said.
"With these tough economic times, we shouldn't be building planes
At a press conference last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates
said the split contract idea is a mistake that would end up costing
taxpayers billions. "I think it's bad public policy and I think
it's bad acquisition policy," Gates said.
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Burt Moore, former deputy chief of
staff for operations and Air Force legislative liaison, said a
split contract doesn't make much sense. "Why would you do a split
buy, which means you get one plane that you want and another plane
which is not exactly what you want?" Moore asked.
Defense analyst Loren Thompson of Arlington, VA's Lexington
Institute said that in the short term, a split contract would cost
taxpayers more because the Air Force would be buying twice as many
planes over the same time period; in the long term, however, it
might end up saving money, with the benefit of replacing the old
fleet roughly twice as fast. "It's a good idea if you can afford
it," Thompson said.