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Psst, Congress! KC-X Award Thursday?

Suppose you are the Air Force, or Defense Secretary Robert Gates. You possess a decision sure to ignite a firestorm on Capitol Hill once it is announced. Do you make the announcement about the KC-X airborne tanker when Congress is in town or do you try and slip it in and buy yourself a day or two of peace --and perhaps disrupt the reaction time -- of those lawmakers ready to erupt at your decision.

The conventional wisdom has been for weeks (inside and outside of Boeing) that EADS NA will win the $35 billion tanker competition. That is sure to mean virtual shouting from the rooftops from Boeing supporters on the Hill. If you announce the award after the close of financial markets on Thursday -- which is the latest word -- you buy yourself a little time because Congress will still be out of town on recess.

"A cynic might speculate the Air Force might want to" do just that, said defense consultant and analyst Loren Thompson, lending added weight to rumors around Washington that Friday was no longer the likeliest day for the contract announcement. Neither company would be able to mobilize its supporters with any details until they get briefed on just why they lost the contract. That would probably be Monday afternoon. That might give the Pentagon a few days of relative peace, though it is hard to imagine either sides partisans hanging back for lack of information.

Watch those airline bookings from Washington, Illinois, Kansas and Alabama.

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