New Tanker Advances in Mark-ups

Despite the fluid situation currently with the Air Force’s KC-X tanker program, both Congressional oversight committees charged with defense authorizations have supported DOD’s Fiscal 2009 spending request for the new aerial refueler thus far. Most recently, the House Armed Services Committee approved May 14 the Pentagon’s $832 million request for the tanker’s development next fiscal year. The panel did cut the $62 million that would have covered the advance procurement of components for the first five tankers, but said the Air Force informed it that this funding “is not required” for program execution during 2009. The committee specified that it made the cut “without prejudice to the program,” which remains on hold pending the outcome of Boeing’s protest with the Government Accountability Office. The Air Force picked the Northrop Grumman-EADS KC-30 tanker design (now designated the KC-45A) over Boeing’s KC-767 model. The GAO expects to render its ruling by June 19. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved the tanker funding request in its mark-up April 30. Lawmakers who have been upset with USAF’s choice have threatened to add amendments that would block the program from moving forward. But the only language added thus far—with Congressional defense appropriators yet to act—was in the House authorization mark-up, calling for the Air Force to review its tanker decision if the World Trade Organization rules that “an illegal subsidy was given to any large commercial aircraft manufacturer”in this case Northrop’s partner EADS, the parent of European aircraft maker Airbus.