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EADS' next step: decide on protest

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By Michelle Dunlop
Herald Writer
Published:
EADS officials now know why they didn't get the Air Force tanker deal. They just don't know what they'll do about it yet.
A meeting Monday morning between Pentagon officials and representatives of EADS didn't produce an immediate answer on whether the defense contractor will protest a $30 billion contract awarded to the Boeing Co.
Last Thursday, Air Force officials called Boeing the "clear winner" in a contest to replace 179 KC-135 aerial refueling tankers. The Air Force's pick of Boeing came as a surprise to EADS -- the parent company of Airbus -- and to most industry observers.
The European company is still evaluating information provided during a meeting with Air Force officials Monday, an EADS spokesman said in a statement.
Despite the Air Force's selection, the award can be protested by EADS. The defense contractor has 10 days from today, when it was briefed by defense officials on the award, to file a protest with government auditors.
"Our objective has always been that the U.S. war fighter receive the most capable tanker, following a fair and transparent competition. That remains our position today," the EADS spokesman said Monday.
EADS would have built its A330 tanker in Mobile, Ala. The company also had planned to assemble Airbus A330 freighters in Alabama if its tanker bid was successful.
In 2008, Boeing protested when the Air Force selected the tanker proposed by EADS and its then-partner Northrop Grumman. The Government Accountability Office agreed with Boeing that the contest was flawed and eventually called for a new competition. This is the Air Force's third attempt to award the contract, valued at $30 billion depending on final upgrades.
On Thursday, William Lynn, deputy secretary of Defense, said that this time around the Air Force had outlined a clear, transparent and open process that "will not yield grounds for protest."
The Air Force said the 767-based tanker offered by Boeing was more than 1 percent cheaper than the Airbus A330-based tanker offered by EADS after the Pentagon adjusted the bids based on lifelong operating costs and war-fighting capability. Boeing's win will keep its 767 commercial jet workers busy here in Everett well into the next decade.
On its Web site, Boeing already has posted a list of open positions that are tied to the tanker contract. The jobs include engineers and planners. For more information, go to jobs-boeing.com/newgentanker.
Story tags » Boeing767Military aviationAirbus

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