Hunter Move on KC-X Thwarted

A measure by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) that would have barred full-rate production of the Air Force’s new KC-45A tanker until certification that 85 percent of its parts are of US origin failed to make it past the House Rules Committee May 21, in its consideration of amendments to the Fiscal 2009 defense authorization bill. The committee struck down the item by voice vote, apparently along party lines, the Press-Register of Mobile, Ala., reported May 22. Some members of Congress, like Hunter, have criticized the Air Force’s decision to award the KC-X tanker contract to Northrop Grumman over industrial base issues, including the fact that the Airbus 330-based Northrop Grumman-EADS tanker will have only about 60 percent US-origin components. The Boeing KC-767 bid would have 85 percent. Over time, the percentage of US content in the KC-45A will grow, according to Northrop. Whether this would rival Boeing’s mark remains in question. Hunter’s proposal also would have stipulated that final assembly of all tankers built during full-rate production would have to occur in the US. Northrop and EADS have said final assembly will take place in Mobile, Ala., once the program is established. But Hunter’s concern is that final assembly could revert to France, where the A330 is currently done, if the KC-45A program runs into challenges. The KC-45A program is on a pause, awaiting the verdict of the Government Accountability Office on Boeing’s protest. The GAO expects to rule by June 19. With the demise of Hunter’s measure, the final version of the House defense bill, which passed May 22, contains only one provision that could potentially derail the new tanker’s progress, but only if the World Trade Organization rules that any company in the KC-X competition benefited from illegal subsidies.