March 09, 2010
New Episode in the Prolonged Aerial Refueling Contract Drama
We have had occasion previously to note the competition between Boeing and Northrop Grumman for a contract to design and build a new fleet of aerial refueling aircraft for the Air Force. We noted in passing that, as illustrated to the right, aerial refueling is cool. When we first reported on this issue, the contract had been awarded to Northrop Grumman in partnership with the parent company of Boeing's Professor Moriarty, Airbus. Later, we reported that Boeing had successfully protested the award and a new round of bidding was to commence.
Today, the New York Times reports that Northrop will not participate in the bid process, leaving Boeing as the only bidder. Northrop also states that it will not challenge the award to Boeing, although it claims that it would have grounds to do so. Northrop claims that the bid process was rigged to Boeing's advantage. The Times suggests that this is a blow to the Obama administration, which was attempting to eliminate single-bidder government contracting. As the Wall Street Journal reports, Members of Congress from Alabama, where the planes were to be built had Northrop won the bid, expressed "disappointment" and "outrage" at the news and suggested that the bid was rigged to favor Boeing to the detriment of American servicemen and women. A Member of Congress from Washington State, where the planes are now to be built, suggested that Northrop and its European partner had been cheating all along and that challenges under international trade agreements would have followed an award to Northrop.
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