Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.) and the panoply of Boeing supporters must have been whooping it up as they read the upbeat news stories about language inserted into the 2009 defense spending bill to give Boeing a better chance of winning the tanker contract.
[Photo: Boeing/Defense Tech]
I checked with some staff and a few other sources on the Hill and the early gouge is this: the Senate is unlikely to support language redrawing the rules of the competition or doing anything like a split buy that would probably lead to a substantial cost increase.
One knowledgeable source pointed out that the tankers back-stop supporters in the Senate were to be Sens. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Ted Stevens (R-Ala.). Stevens has dropped his position as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee until his seven charges are settled one way or another, in compliance with Senate Republican Conference rules. And I understand Inouye, chairman of the defense subcommittee, has indicated he would prefer to stay out of this fight. Also, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a member of the defense subcommittee, would fight tooth and claw to keep any such language out of the Senate bill. Should such language get in somehow, Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are likely to oppose it as the bill moves to the Senate floor.
Of course, the average taxpayer would never know about the tanker language in the bill. Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.), chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, issued a press release yesterday simply stating that the bill:
Provides full funding ($893 million) for the aerial refueling tanker program. The Committee directs the DoD to comply with the GAO findings concerning the tanker award protest, and directs that industrial base concerns be included in the evaluation of the tanker contract award.
-- Colin Clark