Feb 25 The U.S. Air Force is poised to award a
multi-billion-dollar aerial refueling tanker contract following
a plan killed by Congress in 2004 amid a procurement scandal
that sent two former Boeing Co (BA.N) officials to prison on
In the current competition, Boeing offered its 767 and
touted its 70-year history building tankers. The rival team of
Northrop Grumman (NOC.N) and EADS EAD.PA submitted a bid with
a version of the Airbus A330 aircraft, which they argued could
carry more fuel and cargo.
Following is a chronology of events in the Air Force's
effort to begin replacing its aging fleet of KC-135 aerial
Sept. 25, 2001 - Darleen Druyun, then the Air Force's No. 2
acquisition official, meets with officials at Boeing to lay out
a strategy to lease 100 Boeing 767s.
Oct. 9, 2001 - Then-Air Force Secretary James Roche says
the service could lease Boeing 767s with an option to buy, if
Congress passed supporting legislation.
January 2002 - Congress passes law appropriating defense
funds for fiscal year 2002 that includes language saying the
Air Force may lease up to 100 Boeing 767s.
February 2002 - Air Force requests information from Boeing
and Airbus parent EADS about tanker capabilities.
September 2002 - Facing questions from Arizona Republican
Sen. John McCain about the urgency to replace tankers, the Air
Force begins to cite a significant corrosion problem. However,
the comments are contradicted by formal studies that view the
corrosion problem as manageable.
Oct. 17, 2002 - Druyun meets with then Boeing Chief
Financial Officer Michael Sears to discuss a job offer. Sears
tells her: "This meeting really didn't take place."
November 2002 - Druyun recuses herself from further
negotiations with Boeing, retires mid-month and then accepts
$250,000-a-year job with Boeing.
Jan. 3, 2003 - Boeing announces Druyun hire. Watchdog group
Project on Government Oversight describes it as "one of the
most egregious examples in recent memory of the revolving door
between the federal government and defense contractors."
May 23, 2003 - Then-Pentagon chief arms buyer Edward
Aldridge approves $23.5 billion Air Force plan to lease, then
buy, Boeing 767 tankers, four days before he retires.
Nov. 24, 2003 - Boeing fires Druyun and Sears for unethical
conduct in Druyun's hiring. Boeing Chief Executive Phil Condit
resigns a week later.
March 29, 2004 - Pentagon inspector general says the Air
Force used an inappropriate procurement strategy in the tanker
deal and recommends a halt until the Pentagon resolves several
April 21, 2004 - Druyun pleads guilty to a conflict of
interest violation for discussing job with Boeing while still
overseeing billions of dollars of its business with the Air
Force. She is later sentenced to nine months in prison.
Oct. 28, 2004 - Congress passes defense spending bill for
fiscal 2005 that terminates Air Force's authority to lease
Nov. 16, 2004 - Sears pleads guilty to violating federal
conflict of interest laws. He is later sentenced to four months
in federal prison.
September 2005 - Northrop Grumman says it will team with
EADS to compete for an Air Force tanker contract.
April 2006 - Pentagon chief weapons buyer at the time,
Kenneth Krieg, says Air Force can resume procurement of aerial
December 2006 - Air Force agrees to exempt a World Trade
Organization dispute between the European Union and the United
States from the tanker competition, a dispute that could have
knocked Northrop/EADS out of the contest. Krieg underscores the
need for a fair and open competition, saying the program has "a
lot of ghosts."
January 2007 - Air Force issues final request for tanker
proposals after various modifications. The five key criteria
are mission capability, proposal risk, past performance, price,
and an integrated fleet assessment.
April 2007 - Boeing and Northrop submit bids in tanker
competition. Air Force says more than 150 experts will examine
August 2007 - Pentagon rules out splitting the tanker
contract between both bidders because it would be too costly.
October 2007 - Air Force's No. 2 acquisition official,
Charles Riechers, found dead at his home in apparent suicide.
Riechers was working on the tanker program and was under
scrutiny for a temporary job arrangement by the service while
he awaited Senate confirmation.
January 2008 - EADS and Northrop Grumman promise to build
tankers at an Alabama plant if they win. Boeing would build its
plane at plants in Kansas and Washington state if it wins.
Feb. 25 - Pentagon's Defense Acquisition Board meets to
consider award of the tanker contract.
(Information from U.S. Air Force, the Pentagon inspector
general's office and industry)
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)