Thompson-Gate Roils Senate Panel

Taking its turn at the Air Force’s Fiscal 2009 budget, the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee met Wednesday, with the conversation quickly devolving into a back and forth on the tanker award to the Northrop Grumman/EADS team. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), in whose state is Boeing’s 767 production facility, pressed Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley on the Loren Thompson penned treatise that said Northrop won by a wide margin, offering “inside” details on the award process. Murray pointed out that Thompson released his paper prior to debriefs to either Boeing or Congress. Wynne offered a mea culpa, saying that the Air Force regretted the release of such detailed information, saying, “I thought it was a travesty for anybody to talk to anybody before we talk to the winning and losing candidates.” Wynne noted that he did apologize to the Boeing team after the disclosure, but he added, “I have no idea where he [Thompson] got his information.” Murray declared that the situation raised questions about the acquisition process and the protection of proprietary information. “Who else were they talking to?” she asked. (On Tuesday, Boeing filed a formal protest, saying the competition was “seriously flawed.”)