Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), one of Boeing's fiercest supporters in the tanker wars, told me today that he does not think the coming appropriations bill --whether a continuing resolution or a stand-alone bill -- would contain language mandating a tanker purchase split between Boeing and Northrop Grumman. Dicks is one of senior members of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.
Dicks, who was attending the House Aerospace Caucus lunch, went even further and said he did not think there would be any language fencing off -- restricting -- money for whomever is picked for the tanker contract. He added that it was likely that the bill would contain money for upgrades to the existing tanker fleet.
Dicks told me to check with Rep. John Murtha (D-Penn.), chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, about the subcommittee's plans. I called and emailed and hadn't heard back so I went through the statement Murtha issued earlier in the day.
That seemed to indicate Murtha would support upgrades for the existing tankers. "Now our job will be to work with the Department to make certain that our current tankers, that are over 40 years old, will be rehabilitated to ensure we have tankers available for world-wide Air Force missions,” he said. Now we find out just how dilapidated those planes really are.