Mar 09 2010

Richard Shelby says 'the Air Force blew it' on air tanker RFP

By George Talbot

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, said today that the Air Force's bidding criteria for the refueling tanker contract were tilted toward Boeing Co.

"The Air Force had a chance to deliver the most capable tanker possible to our warfighters and blew it," Shelby said in a news release.

"This so-called competition was not structured to produce the best outcome for our men and women in uniform; it was structured to produce the best outcome for Boeing. The Air Force's refusal to make substantive changes to level the playing field shows that once again politics trumps the needs of our military."

U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, called Northrop's decision "truly a dark day for the American warfighter and the Pentagon."

"Tasked by Congress to conduct a fair competition, the Obama Defense Department rewrote the bid rules in such a biased fashion that only one team felt it could win," Sessions said.

"I hoped that the Secretary of Defense will personally review the competition in light of this disastrous result for the taxpayer. There is no way the Defense Department will be able to get the best price without competition."

Gov. Bob Riley said he didn't blame Northrop for refusing to participate in a "charade."

"The Pentagon and White House have made it impossible for any other plane to be competitive. It's disgraceful," Riley said.

"If this was not a political decision, then why would the Pentagon intentionally rewrite the specifications from what they originally wanted a year ago? When the Air Force is compelled by politics to select the slower, smaller and older plane, no one can say with a straight face that this is what's best for America or America's warfighters."