Air Force admits picking costly contract
WASHINGTON – The Air Force has conceded it chose the more expensive option in awarding a $35 billion contract for refueling tankers to a team led by Northrop Grumman Corp. instead of Boeing Co., Boeing said Thursday.
Although the Air Force said it cannot legally comment on the tanker proposals, the evaluation process or its selection, Northrop confirmed that the Air Force has found that the Boeing tanker proposal included cheaper life-cycle costs.
Boeing’s disclosure is the company’s latest attempt to show that the Air Force’s award to European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. – parent company of its rival Airbus – and Northrop was unfair. The company’s claims were detailed in documents filed in its protest of the contract to the Government Accountability Office and were made public just days before the GAO is set to issue its ruling.
Although the Air Force is not bound by the GAO decision, any finding of error with the competition is certain to give ammunition to Boeing’s supporters in Congress as they seek to block or overturn it.
“We have been saying for months now that errors had to be present in this contract award,” said Rep. Todd Tiahrt, a Kansas Republican who represents a district where Boeing would do much of its tanker work. “This is strong evidence that the tanker contract should be re-competed.”
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