No Change Here

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said yesterday (June 17) that the Office of the Secretary of Defense had not altered its view about the soundness of the Air Force’s KC-X tanker decision since the contract award was made to Northrop Grumman-EADS in February. “There has been absolutely no change in this building’s position on that contract,” he said while speaking to reporters in the Pentagon. Much has happened since then, including Boeing’s protest of the decision with the Government Accountability Office and the sudden resignation of USAF’s leadership earlier this month. Still, Morrell said, “We believe that the acquisition and the contracting process that eventually produced Northrop Grumman and EADS as the winner of this deal was a fair and transparent one. It was very deliberate.” He also reiterated the imperative of getting the new tankers on the ramp as soon as possible to replace the current Eisenhower-era KC-135s. “These planes desperately need to be replaced,” he said, adding that “any further delay would be a real problem.” Morrell’s comments came on the cusp of the GAO’s ruling in the tanker protest. (Update: See above, GAO upheld the protest.) By law, the GAO must rule by close of business tomorrow, which is the final day of the 100 days it is granted to review a legal complaint. There have also been rumors swirling that its decision could come by COB today. Northrop Grumman issued a statement yesterday calling for no further delays in the program should the GAO rule against Boeing. “If we’re given the ‘all clear,’ it is critical that we get to work,” said Randy Belote, Northrop Grumman VP of corporate and international communications. Meanwhile Boeing is holding out hope that a GAO ruling even partially in its favor could ultimately lead to a new competition, Reuters news wire service reported June 16 (via Forbes). “If the protest is upheld, if even just some of our arguments are upheld, that could ultimately lead to a recompetition,” Mark McGraw, Boeing’s tanker program manager, told the wire service.