The Associated Press
By Ben Evans
Alabama lawmakers are objecting to proposed bidding criteria for a major Air Force contract, saying it could unfairly hurt the chances that a new, multibillion-dollar fleet of airborne refueling tankers would be built in
The Pentagon plans to submit a "request for proposals" within days that would include questions about how a pending international trade dispute involving U.S.-based Boeing Co. and European jet maker Airbus SAS could affect the companies' ability to take on the project.
The companies are leading contenders for the contract. European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., the majority owner of Airbus, has teamed with Northrop Grumman Corp. on its bid and plans to build the KC-330 plane in
"It looks to me that if it's included, it will tilt, or try to tilt, the playing field toward Boeing," Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said after a Wednesday meeting with Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England. "He should be interested, in my opinion, in getting the best tanker at the best price for the American taxpayer."
Although the bidding proposal is only a draft,
"We had no satisfaction out of the meeting," said Shelby, who was joined at the meeting by Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Ala., and staffers for Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.
A contract for the project could be awarded as soon as next year. Boeing has proposed a tanker version of its 767 jetliner, which is built at
In the trade dispute, pending before the World Trade Organization, the
The European Union retaliated with a countersuit targeting tax breaks and other subsidies given to Boeing, which is based in
Boeing supporters in Congress have argued that the European company should have to account for advantages that such subsidies give them in competing for Pentagon contracts. But EADS backers, pointing to
The Air Force is asking how subsidies would help pay for design and development of the refueling tanker and how potential retaliatory duties might affect the project.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a critic of the tanker deal and leading member of the Armed Services Committee, has joined
In a Sept. 15 letter responding to McCain's criticism,
"In my judgment, it's important that all matters be openly addressed and clarified prior to a final RFP being issued," he wrote.
EADS announced its decision last year to build the plane at