Air Force restarts $35B tanker competition

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Air Force has started its third attempt to award a $35 billion tanker contract to either Boeing or Northrop Grumman.

The Air Force says it will be "crystal clear" in its requirements for new tankers that refuel military planes in flight to avoid errors from previous selection processes. The service also now wants a plane that's war-ready on day one.

The Pentagon has failed twice to award a contract to replace its Eisenhower-era fleet of tankers. The last attempt in early 2008 was overturned on appeal and led Pentagon leaders to temporarily revoke the Air Force's authority to award a contract.

The 2004 award to Boeing was undone by an ethics scandal that resulted in prison terms for a former company executive and a former Air Force official.


Sen. Richard Shebly (R)-

"After initial review, the Air Force has made the fair and just determination to not include provisions that would irresponsibly penalize one competitor based on unfounded results of an interim World Trade Organization report.  This is the right decision.  While the overview reiterated the Air Force and Department of Defense's commitment to not utilize a lowest-price, technically acceptable acquisition process, the devil is in the details.  I look forward to further examining the full draft RFP to ensure that it provides a level playing field for the competitors and the best capability for the warfighter."

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R)-

"We learned today (Thursday) that the Air Force, in an effort to reduce the potential for protest or appeal, is going to utilize more objective criteria in its selection process.  It is critical that the criteria be written in a way that delivers the aircraft that is the best value to the military. We have not seen the actual document, so I'm not yet able to express an opinion on whether it meets that test. Industry will also have to look closely at that question, as well as whether the final RFP is written to favor one bidder over the other.

"We have fallen far behind the planned schedule for replacing our aging tanker fleet. For a number of years this has been the Air Force's number one acquisition priority, and it is past time for the Air Force to move ahead with this competition."

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