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Press Release

Taxpayers Have Had Their Fill of Tanker-Deal Missteps, Citizen Group Says

For Immediate Release June 19, 2008
Pete Sepp, (703) 683-5700

(Alexandria, Va.) -- As industry analysts and policymakers assess the impact of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) decision on the Air Force's KC-X tanker project, the 362,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) today urged all parties involved to recognize the ruling as one more symptom of a chronically ill procurement process. NTU has not accepted funding from any participant in the KC-X bidding process.

"The pundits are already tallying up the score for the bidders involved in the KC-X debacle, but there are more important winners and losers for Washington to worry about," said NTU Vice President for Policy and Communications Pete Sepp. "Taxpayers managed to eke out a victory for independent oversight of a huge military decision, but only because Congress barely resisted the temptation to intervene with a display of pork-barrel politics. Meanwhile, the nation's service people will hopefully soon get the best plane for the job at hand, but only after suffering through two rounds of botched bidding. It is both tragic and bizarre that both these groups of Americans won just a little by losing so much."

The contract in question was re-opened to bidding following a 2002 scandal involving Boeing officials and Air Force procurement officers; the result found the Northrop Grumman tanker plane superior to its Boeing counterpart. As is its right, Boeing filed a formal protest with GAO, but some lawmakers sought to overturn the Air Force decision right away. NTU opposed the latter course, because doing so would have effectively permitted Congress to create the largest earmark in history and further shred a budget process already in tatters.

Late yesterday, GAO announced that the Air Force "had made a number of significant errors that could have affected the outcome of what was a close competition between Boeing and Northrop Grumman," and announced that GAO investigators "denied a number of Boeing's challenges" because there was no "basis to conclude that the agency had violated the legal requirements with respect to those challenges." A third bidding process will likely occur.

"Now that the contract is essentially back to square one, neither the people who pay America's bills nor those who defend America's soil can afford further missteps -- not from the Air Force, the companies involved, or Congress," Sepp concluded. "Without major reforms to government purchasing practices, the future will hold more grim reminders of why the weapons acquisition process has been on GAO's own high-risk list for 17 years straight."

NTU is a nonprofit citizen organization founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels. Note: For further information on NTU's efforts to promote better procurement policies, visit