Boeing wins massive Air Force contract in surprise decision

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
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On Thursday the Pentagon announced the winner of a $35 billion contract to build aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force.

In a surprise decision, Boeing was awarded the contract over the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), the maker of Airbus.

The competition between the companies prompted involvement from elected representatives whose states stood to economically benefit from manufacturing and supply plants.

Washington Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire and Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback drafted a letter to President Obama earlier this month advocating for Boeing. Kansas is the location of a supply plant and the company was founded in Seattle.

Gregoire and Brownback claimed that awarding EADS the contract would result in the tankers being built in Europe “with a small portion of the outfitting work done in the United States.”

Republican Govs. Robert Bentley of Alabama, Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana responded in favor of EADS. The tankers would have been assembled in Mobile, Alabama.

The three defended the European-based company, writing that illegal subsidies for EADS “are far from conclusively determined by the World Trade Organization.”

Bentley, Barbour and Jindal said that awarding EADS the contract would provide “a much-needed economic ripple effect across a Gulf Coast region still reeling from natural and man-made disasters.”

The New York Times reports that this is the largest military contract awarded in years. The Times estimates that the ultimate value of the contract may reach $100 billion.

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported Thursday that Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray immediately released a statement praising the decision as a “victory for the American workers.”