Not that it's a big surprise, but the Air Force will reopen bidding on the multi-billion dollar tanker contract that was originally awarded to the team of Northrop and the European-based parent of Airbus. A government report that was requested by losing bidder Boeing found all kinds of flaws in the process by which L.A.-based Northrop got the award. Procedurally, the Air Force could have ignored the findings of the government accountants. But politically, it would have been a dead end. The new competition is supposed to be "expedited," which probably means five years rather than 10 (actually, they're talking about months, not years). And presidential politics is likely to get in the way. From the NYT:
John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, had long been a critic of Boeing’s initial bid and as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee held a series of hearings that opened the door to the bid made by Northrop and European Aeronautic Defense and Space. As a result, critics have contended that he has favored a European supplier to an American company for a critical American military contract — an impression not helped by the fact that several of his top campaign advisers had worked as lobbyists for Airbus.
With national pride and jobs on the line, the tanker deal has stirred up strong emotions on both sides of the Atlantic. When the EADS-Northrop team was chosen, there was elation in Europe. This was only followed by disappointment, when the G.A.O.’s surprise ruling criticized the process that selected the Airbus plane and opened the door to re-bidding the contract. “EADs feels very raw over this,” said Alexandra Ashbourne, who heads Ashbourne Strategic Consulting in London, an aerospace analysis firm. “There was a lot of effort expended for no return. You cannot underestimate how raw and burnt they feel as a result of all this.”