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Back and Forth...

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And this from Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell...some interesting tidbits (edited for brevity):

There has been absolutely no change in this building's position on that contract. As the secretary has said time and time again, this is the number-one acquisition priority of the Air Force. It has to be. It is 10 years overdue.

The average age of this fleet is 47 years old. These plans desperately need to be replaced, not yesterday, not the year before, but 10 years ago. Any further delay would be a real problem.

And 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.

And we believe it provided the American taxpayer with -- we believe it provided our warfighters with the most capable aircraft and the taxpayer the most cost-effective solution to this very real need of replacing the tanker fleet.

Nothing really new here. Of course the Pentagon is going to back their service's decision. But what I think is interesting in Morrell's comment is the idea that the decision was the "most capable" aircraft and the "most cost effective" one. That's more than just a stock endorsement. It's a value decision.

Then it got really interesting...

I think our people felt very secure about the contracting process. Obviously, the eyes of the world were upon the Air Force, as they were pursuing this contract, and in light of what had happened with the previous attempt to award this contract.

Precisely. It's hard to argue any underhandedness here and that somehow the wool was pulled over Boeing's eyes for this very reason.

More:

You know, I know there's been a lot of concern in Congress about this and the impact that this contract may have on the loss of jobs in particular states. And the secretary has told Congress time and again that the only factors that they are allowed to consider when letting these contracts is cost and capability.

And that if they wish to change the contracting criteria to include the impact on jobs, they should be aware of the potential impact that would have on U.S. military companies, because they do an awful lot of business overseas. And you run the risk of opening the door to retaliatory trade restrictions that would ultimately have a far greater impact on domestic jobs than perhaps this one contract will.

Kudos to Colin for recognizing this aspect in yesterday's post. And clearly the Pentagon is worried about the health of the defense sector and its ability to sell systems worldwide.

-- Christian

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