So this is how much clout the Washington congressional delegation has: A day after five House members join in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates to keep the schedule on track for building a new tanker to replace the KC-135, the Pentagon announces...
It will extend the deadline by 60 days so Airbus can submit a bid.
To be fair, the Pentagon gets so much mail that it's possible Gates hadn't even gotten around to reading the letter from Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Doc Hastings, Jay Inslee, Rick Larsen and others from around the country. Maybe if they'd have sent a singing telegram or something to stand out from the crowd and catch his attention. Maybe if they'd camped out in his office. Who knows.
IIt's also possible that after nearly nine years and two high-profile failures in trying to find a suitable replacement for some of the KC-135 fleet, someone at the Pentagon decided "What's another 60 days to see if we can finally get this right?"
In any event, the Air Force will wait an extra two months before closing off bids. Right now The Boeing Co. is the only one bidding on the contract, which could be worth as much as $40 billion. Airbus, which apparently has lost its U.S. partner Northrop Grumman, says with the extra time it can come up with a proposal to use a version of its A-330.
The Pentagon's decision really torqued U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, who said the World Trade Organization just confirmed Airbus gets illegal subsidies to build its planes. For the full text of her press release, go inside the blog.
Senator Murray’s Statement on the Pentagon’s Announcement of a 60 Day Extension of the Tanker Bid Deadline
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) issued the following statement after the Pentagon announced that they would extend the deadline for submitting a bid to build the next generation of aerial refueling tankers to accommodate the European company Airbus. On March 23rd, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that Airbus has for years received illegal, trade-distorting subsidies that have hurt U.S. aerospace companies and undercut American workers. The ruling included a finding that the A-330, the very plane that Airbus plans to put forward in the tanker competition, has been built using illegal subsidies.
“This is completely unacceptable. This extension means that we are once again bending the rules for a company that has refused to play by them. Holding the door open to an illegally-subsidized foreign company is the wrong move for our men and women in uniform, our workers, and our economy.
“Airbus has had ample time to compete for this contract and put forth a bid. A sixty-day extension is simply another Airbus delay tactic that comes at the expense of our workers and our service members.
“Unfortunately, this is textbook Airbus, who has for years done anything it takes to gain U.S. market share and undercut American workers. Whether it’s extending deadlines, threatening to drop out if the rules aren’t changed in their favor, or receiving billions in illegal, trade-distorting subsidies, no ploy is spared. We cannot and should not be rewarding this behavior.
“I will be working with Senators from across the country and the political spectrum to make clear to the Pentagon that this is the wrong move for our service members and our workers. It's time to stop being held hostage by Airbus' 11th hour demands, and it’s time to move forward with providing America's military with an American-made tanker.”