Some Boeing supporters on Capitol Hill are exploring legislative action to stymie the Air Force’s KC-X tanker award to Northrop Grumman/EADS in the event that Boeing’s legal appeal with the Government Accountability Office fails. Rep. Jay Inslee, (D-Wash.), in whose state Boeing would have built the KC-767 tanker had it won the KC-X contest, said there are “six to a dozen strategies” under consideration, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported March 24. Inslee told the newspaper that they include: prohibiting the award of a government contract to any company found by the US government to be receiving illegal subsidies; directing the Air Force to reconsider the two tanker proposals and factor in subsidies in its evaluation; instructing USAF to reopen the bidding and allow Boeing to propose a tanker based on a larger airplane; and canceling outright the Northrop Grumman contract. But such moves by Congress would not be universally embraced, even by lawmakers without a direct dog in the fight. For example, the newspaper quotes Sen. John Warner, (R-Va.) who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, as saying “Congress should not get in the business of trying to rewrite a contract, particularly one of this magnitude and complexity.” And those with a direct interest in the new tanker would oppose them, too. “It’s not acceptable to change the rules in the middle of the game, and it’s certainly not acceptable to change the rules after the game is over,” the newspaper quotes Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), in whose state Northrop Grumman would assemble its winning KC-45A tanker model, which is based on the EADS Airbus A330 airframe. For now, eyes remain on the GAO. Boeing protested March 11; GAO has until mid June to rule.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.