Republican Senators Want Resolution On Tanker Deal
Ashton Carter, President Obama's nominee to become the
Pentagon's next acquisition chief, saw his nomination stalled last
week after two Republican senators raised concerns about the
stalled KC-X contract deal for a new Air Force tanker.
Citing unnamed sources, Defense News reports Alabama Senators
Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions threatened to place holds on
Carter's nomination process, to force Defense Secretary Richarg
Gates' hand on ruling on whether Boeing or a team comprised of
Northrop Grumman and European defense conglomerate EADS should be
awarded the contract, worth as much as $40 billion. If selected,
the Northrop/EADS KC-30A would be built in Mobile -- hence the
As ANN reported, the KC-30A won the last full
round of bidding in February 2008... but that decision was later
tossed out after the Government Accountability Office upheld a
protest from Boeing, and ruled the USAF showed preferential
treatment in awarding the contract to the KC-30. A new contract
proposal has been stalled ever since, ostensibly to give the new
presidential administration time to sort things out.
In separate letters, Shelby and Sessions both demanded Gates
take all steps to ensure a "fair and competitive" bidding process
with KC-X does go out for rebid. They also noted such a competition
would seemingly in favor of the KC-30, saying it represents the
best value for the US Air Force.
"It is of the utmost importance that the new tanker competition
be conducted in an open and transparent manner based on a best
value process," Shelby wrote in an April 3 statement. "Before the
new Request for Proposal is issued, we should have every assurance
from Dr. Carter that the Department of Defense will proceed fairly
to ensure our war fighters receive the most capable tanker
Sessions added, "I still have some unanswered questions about a
commitment to a fair and open tanker competition."
It's still unclear at this time what effect, if any, the
senators' move had on Gates' decision on KC-X. In any case, Carter
will have to wait until April 20 to resume his confirmation
hearing... as Congress is now in recess.