Pentagon Mulls Extending Tanker Competition

In a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, five U.S. Senators said that granting EADS a 60-day extension to put together a new bid for the aerial refueling tanker would amount to putting “American service members and workers on hold to accommodate the business needs of an illegally subsidized company.”

In the letter, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Kit Bond (R-MO), Sam Brownback (R-KS), Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) urged Secretary Gates to stick to the original May 10 deadline for final responses to the request for proposals to build the next generation refueling tanker, known as the KC-X.

“The Air Force has already laid out clear requirements and timelines for the KC-X competition, and the potential bidders have already had ample time to study the final Request for Proposals (RFP) and prepare competitive bids,” the lawmakers wrote. “We see no valid reason to postpone the tanker acquisition process any longer.”

On March 31, the Defense Department announced that it would grant EADS an extension of 60 days to respond to the RFP if the company formally commits to bidding. While EADS officials have not officially responded to the Pentagon proposal, they initially said they would need an additional 90 days and that EADS officials must also receive “training” on how to present their proposal to the Pentagon.

Many in Congress say EADS should not be allowed to bid for the tanker work given a recent World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling that the company benefited from illegal government subsidies, including massive financial aid to develop the Airbus A330 wide-body that it would pit against Boeing’s 767 tanker.

“No matter who else is bidding — and no matter how much extra time they’re given to make their bid — that won’t change the fact that the Boeing KC-767 tanker, built by our District 751 members here in Puget Sound, are the right ones for the mission, and that we are ready today to start the work,” said District 751 President Tom Wroblewski.