Crossing that Tanker Bridge

Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Wednesday reiterated the Pentagon leadership’s message that it would prefer to have both Boeing and Northrop Grumman remain in the KC-X tanker contest, but would press on if only one company decides to submit a bid. “Obviously, we would like to have a competition,” he told the House Armed Services Committee when testifying on the Administration’s proposed defense budget for Fiscal 2011. But should that not be the case, Gates said DOD would “move forward,” since Air Force tanker recapitalization has already “been delayed too long.” The final KC-X request for proposals is expected to hit the streets later this month or in early March. Northrop’s team has been unhappy with the draft RFP’s language and has called for changes that, in its words, give it a fair shot at winning. Otherwise, it has threatened to withdraw itself from consideration.