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AF: We like one tanker contract

Air Force officials told a Senate subcommittee they still don’t like the idea of “splitting the baby” on the new refueling tanker.

That’s not a surprise, because the Pentagon has been saying to anyone who will listen that they want to have one version of the replacement for the aging KC-135s. They want to take bids from Boeing and Lockheed/Grumman/EADS and do a winner take all. Problem is, certain members of Congress, particularly the head of a House military appropriations committee, don’t much want to listen.

Sen. Patty Murray — who is a big supporter of Boeing (it’s a mutual kind of thing) — wants just one contract, and took a Capitol Hill visit by Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Norman Schwartz to get them to reiterate what they’ve been saying all along about a single contract.

They also got to repeat that they support a “fair and open” competition for the contract, which could be worth about $40 billion. This is hardly news, although it would be news if they would own up at some point to supporting a “rigged and secretive” competition, right?

So what about sending the new tankers — should they EVER get built — to Fairchild?

Answer inside the blog.

No promises. In fact, it sounded pretty much like a non promise:

“Certainly, Fairchild is an obvious candidate for early beddown. There are others in the country too.. Fairchild certainly is in the longterm plans.”

So to review: The Air Force wants new tankers. It only wants one model. It wants to have a fair and open competition to build that tanker. It wants to put those new tankers somewhere. As a current tanker base, at some point, Fairchild will get new tankers.

Not to be overly critical, but it seems like Donley and Schwartz could have stayed at the Pentagon and sent the Senate a copy of the stuff they’ve been saying for months, and got some real work done.

Of course, there may be other interpretations of all this. You can watch the subcommittee questioning of Donley and Schwartz here. If you want to focus in on Murray, her questions start about 88:30 into the 102 minute clip.

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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