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Dicks Cries 'Allelujah" If NG Drops KC-X

UPDATED: Boeing "Disappointed" WTO Subsidies Not Addressed In RFP; NG Does Not Pull Out ... at Least Not Yet.

First reactions are in from lawmakers who were briefed on the Air Force’s new Tanker RFP this morning. Colin Clark caught up with Congressman Norm Dicks (D) from Washington state, chairman presumptive to replace the late Rep. John Murtha on the House defense appropriations subcommittee, who said the final RFP is “a fundamental plus for the smaller aircraft.”

Boeing’s tanker is based on the 767 airframe -- parts of which are expected to be built in Everett, Wa., near Dick’s home district -- which is considerably smaller than the Northrop Grumman offering, which is based on the A330.

“I will say hallelujah,” Dicks said when asked his opinion on what he would do if Northrop makes good on its threats to drop out of the bid because they believe the RFP is weighted heavily in favor of rival Boeing. “Everybody would like to see competition,” he quickly added.

Northrop didn't pull out right away. The company's tanker spokesman Randy Belote issued this terse comment hours after the tanker RFP briefing was out on the street: "Northrop Grumman will analyze the RFP and defer further public comments until its review of the document has been completed."

Boeing beat the subsidies drum in its statement. "While we appreciated the open dialogue with the Air Force throughout this process, we are disappointed that the RFP does not address some of our key concerns, including Airbus' unfair competitive advantage derived from subsidies from its sponsor European governments - subsidies that the World Trade Organization has found to be illegal and harmful to U.S. workers and industry - and how fuel and military-construction costs over the life of the tankers will be factored into consideration of the competing bids," Jean Chamberlin, tanker vice president, said in a statement.

Dicks also pointed to the final RFP's cost assumptions as good news for Boeing. “I think this new RFP has a 40-year lifecycle cost assumption. I like that!” He also likes the proposed concept of the Air Force adding more planes to their annual buy. Dicks added that he thinks Congress can quickly move the program forward.

An emailed statement from House Armed Services Committee chair Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) reads:

“The Air Force has made a strong case for recapitalizing our nation’s aging airborne tanker inventory, and I support this requirement. The tanker replacement process has gone on for eight years, and we need to move forward this year to award a contract to provide our service members with the tools that they need to succeed in today’s conflicts. DOD has worked diligently to set the stage for a fair and open competition for the KC-X Tanker contract, and I hope the process moves quickly to provide the best tanker for our Air Force.”

Washington Senator Patty Murray (D) issued the following statement:

“I’m glad that we finally have an RFP so we can at long last move forward with a competition to get these critical aircraft into the hands of our men and women in uniform. I will be looking over the details of this final RFP to ensure that it is fair and transparent and that it provides an even playing field for our state’s workers.

Given a fair shot, Washington state’s workers will bring home this contract. We have the skills, the technology, and the experience of having built the only combat-ready tanker to prove it. Our workers have done it before and I know they’re ready to do it again. With today’s RFP we now have the process in place that will allow our workers to deliver for our economy, military, and country.”

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