Make us your home page

Northrop drops out of MacDill tanker bid, clearing way for Boeing

WASHINGTON — Northrop Grumman Corp. announced Monday that it won't compete against Boeing Co. for a $35 billion contract to build refueling tankers for the Air Force because Northrop doesn't think it can win.

The new planes would replace the KC-135 Stratotankers at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa that the Air Force has been flying since the Eisenhower administration.

The decision puts the Pentagon on a path to doing something President Barack Obama said shouldn't happen anymore: paying large amounts of money to a major defense contractor without undergoing any competition.

The decision also will probably knock out a major international competitor from gaining a foothold in the U.S. market. EADS, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., had partnered with Northrop Grumman to vie for the tanker but was not expected to be able to compete against Boeing on its own.

Northrop chief executive officer and president Wes Bush said in a statement that the Pentagon's guidelines for the program "clearly favors Boeing's smaller refueling tanker" but that the company would not file a formal protest.

The Pentagon defended the program as fair and said both companies could compete effectively. Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said the program would not be reworked just to ensure a competition.

"To suggest that the department should conduct a competition that would result in DOD paying a much higher price for capabilities that are not needed simply isn't effective," Whitman said.

The political fallout was swift. Bob Riley, governor of Alabama, where Northrop would have assembled the planes and created thousands of new jobs, called the program a "charade" and said the Pentagon made it "impossible" for Northrop to compete.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., called the development "tragic." Added fellow Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby: "The Air Force's refusal to make substantive changes to level the playing field shows that once again politics trumps the needs of our military."

A year ago, Obama said these kinds of no-bid contracts aren't a good deal for the taxpayer and vowed to change the way government agencies do business. With the support of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., his campaign rival in 2008, Obama ordered his senior advisers to come up with ways to encourage competition.

The tanker program is considered one of the biggest blunders in defense contracting history. The Pentagon has tried twice — and failed twice — to award a contract to buy tankers since 2003.

Information from Times files was used in this report.

Northrop drops out of MacDill tanker bid, clearing way for Boeing 03/08/10 [Last modified: Monday, March 8, 2010 7:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  2. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  3. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  4. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.
  5. Honda denies covering up dangers of Takata air bags


    With just a third of the defective Takata air bag inflators replaced nationwide, the corporate blame game of who will take responsibility — and pay — for the issue has shifted into another gear.

    Honda is denying covering up dangers of Takata air bags. | [Scott McIntyre, New York Times]