Lawmakers are turning up the pressure on the Pentagon, urging Defense Secretary Robert Gates to cancel the Air Force contract with Northrop Grumman and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. to build aerial refueling tankers
The service awarded the contract in February, and Boeing, the loser in the competition, protested to the Government Accountability Office. The GAO has upheld a number of Boeing’s assertions and recommended that the Air Force rebid the contract.
Though the Air Force was given 60 days to chart a new course, members of Congress who back Boeing are armed with the GAO ruling and taking their complaints to the Pentagon’s top boss.
“First and foremost, the existing contract with the EADS Team should be cancelled,” said Rep. Todd Tihart (R-Kan.) wrote Gates. “As the GAO report states, the EADS Team refused ‘to agree to a specific solicitation requirement.’ This should have led to the EADS Teams’ immediate elimination from the competition.”
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) has asked Gates for meeting on the issue.
During a Pentagon press briefing today, Gates was noncommittal, saying that he and the Pentagon's top weapons buyer, John Young, were still discussing the best way forward.
"I take the GAO report very seriously," Gates said. "They clearly pointed out some areas where we were deficient."