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More Tanker Trash Talk

An international engineers union is preparing to circulate a scathing white paper aimed at revving up opposition to the Air Force’s aerial refueling tanker award to Northrop Grumman and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.

The release, planned for tomorrow, comes a week before leaders of an aerospace chapter of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers plan to gather to brainstorm in Everett, Wash. – the home of Boeing’s aerial tanker operations. Boeing lost the bid for the contract, worth up to $40 billion.

The brainstorming session and the white paper are aimed at motivating union members to stay on top of grassroots lobbying efforts, said Paul Shearon, the union’s secretary treasurer.

The effort may need a boost. Lawmakers considered including provisions that would have affected the outcome of the tanker competition in the Defense Authorization Bill approved by the House last week. Instead, they opted to wait for the Government Accountability Office to rule on Boeing’s official protest of the award.

The GAO’s decision is due June 19, but lawyers have wrapped up their voluminous fact-finding mission and are in the process of writing the case.

Members of the union were disappointed with the outcome in the House, said Matt Biggs, legislative director for the union. At this point, they are pinning their hopes on key appropriators – Washington Democrats, Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Norm Dicks, and Kansas Republican Rep. Todd Tiahrt – to cut funding for the tanker program.

The union’s white paper is bound to rankle opponents and provide fuel for pro-Northrop blogs, providing 10 pages of arguments about why the Boeing KC-767 would have made a better replacement for the Air Force’s Eisenhower-era tanker fleet.