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KC-45A Clears Start-Up Hurdle In Senate Committee

Boeing Supporters Continue Fight Against Northrop/EADS Plane

The Northrup Grumman-partnered EADS KC-45A team cleared a major legislative hurdle this week, when lawmakers announced the Senate Armed Services Committee approved startup funding for the new fleet.

"This is great news for the tanker project," said Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer this week. Alabama stands to gain significant employment from the program as EADS plans to build a tanker-manufacturing facility in Mobile.

Despite the gain, the US Air Force KC-X contract award to EADS on February 29 continues to be protested by Boeing supporters. As ANN reported, the wide-ranging protest by Boeing stems from its claim the US Air Force changed the guidelines of the KC-X program to make the EADS KC-45A, based on the Airbus A330, more competitive. Boeing states its offering, the KC-767, better suited the original guidelines set by the Air Force for the KC-X.

The Government Accountability Office is set to rule on the protest by mid-June. Supporters of Boeing's bid say additional steps are being taken to halt the program through congressional action. 

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate committee, said Thursday he would not support any such action before the Government Accountability Office rules on the Boeing appeal. "We are not going to prejudge the (tanker) debate," Levin told reporters. "We need the GAO to reach an independent decision on the (Boeing) appeal. Everybody ought to wait for that."

House supporters of the Boeing appeal hope to have more success in halting the program. Washington Representative Norm Dicks states the House defense appropriations subcommittee intends to intervene to halt the EADS tanker project. Dicks sits as vice chairman of that committee.

"We are going to try to eliminate the funding" for the tanker, Dicks said, and push to "start this thing over again."

FMI: www.armed-services.senate.gov, www.af.mil, www.globaltanker.com, www.northropgrumman.com/kc45/

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