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Northrop exec blasts Boeing request in tanker deal

Northrop exec blasts Boeing request in tanker deal

A senior Northrop Grumman Corp. executive on Friday criticized rival Boeing Co.'s request to the Pentagon for additional time to assemble its offer for a disputed $35 billion aerial refueling tanker contract.
Northrop Chief Operating Officer and President Wes Bush said Boeing's request to extend a deadline by four months to submit a proposal in the second round of bidding will only cause further delays and higher costs to the taxpayer.
The program has been on hold since late 2004 after Boeing lost the contract amid an ethics scandal that resulted in prison terms for a former senior company official and a former high-ranking Air Force official.
"We've both had more than three years to put forth our very best tanker design," Bush in a phone interview Friday afternoon. "By coming out and saying, 'We need another six months,' Boeing seems to be openly admitting that their tanker does not measure up to what the Air Force needs."
Boeing spokesman Daniel Beck conceded that the aircraft it offered in the initial competition isn't the right plane based on the Air Force's new set of requirements. "That's why we say it's a new competition" and why we need "adequate time" to put together a proposal based on what the Pentagon is now asking for.
Boeing's argument is flawed because both competitors had the same communication with the Air Force and were aware of the same requirements, Bush said. However, a Government Accountability Office probe found the Air Force had "unequal and misleading" discussions with Boeing during the recent bidding process.
Boeing lost the contract in February to Northrop and its partner Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. The competition was reopened after government auditors found "significant errors" in the Air Force's decision. The revamped competition will focus on eight areas where the GAO found problems with the initial process.
Bush declined to say whether Northrop had formally objected to Boeing's request. He did say the Northrop team continues to have discussions with John Young, the Pentagon's acquisition chief, and is prepared to respond to the final request for proposals.
Shares of Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman added 61 cents to $70 Friday, while Boeing added $2, or 3.2 percent, to $65.55.