Pentagon Punts Air Force Decision to Next Administration

By Jennifer Parker

Sep 10, 2008 11:18am

ABC News’ Luis Martinez reports: Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Wednesday that he’s decided it’s not possible to get a new refueling tanker decision done by the end of the year, so he’ll leave it up to the next administration to decide who should get the $35 billion contract for the badly needed planes.

He’s canceling the heated competition between Boeing and Northrop Grumman/EADS (Airbus), in favor of a new one to start next year.

Gates had set a goal of reaching a new decision by year’s end, but there have been so many delays ever since the Pentagon issued its draft proposal and Boeing had threatened to drop out of the competition, altogether, that it’s just not doable.

"Over the past seven years, the process has become enormously complex and emotional — in no small part because of mistakes and missteps along the way by the Department of Defense," Gates said.

The secretary of defense also said that the competitive climate right now is just not conducive to carrying out a fair competition in the time frame he’d been hoping for.

"It is my judgment that, in the time remaining to us, we can no longer complete a competition that would be viewed as fair and objective in this highly charged environment. The resulting "cooling off" period will allow the next administration to review objectively the military requirements and craft a new acquisition strategy for the KC-X," Gates said. 

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