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October 9, 2009—Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) pulled no punches last week in an impromptu Senate floor speech in which he said Defense Secretary Robert Gates had put "politics and business interests" first when he cancelled a planned revival of USAF's KC-X tanker program late last year.

Shelby, an ardent supporter of the Northrop Grumman tanker, asserted that Gates "sent a clear message that only a Boeing tanker will be acceptable."

He elaborated by outlining the ongoing pricing data dispute raised by Northrop that DOD rejected, saying the data is now old so it has no bearing on the new contest. Shelby said: "Northrop Grumman-EADS offered a clearly better plane, at a price that was $3 billion less than Boeing. And now, today, Boeing knows how they did it."

Shelby maintained DOD is "tilting the competition toward Boeing" and has "severely penalized" Northrop, despite its claim for fairness and transparency.

And, he said the Pentagon is not, as it claims, employing a "best value" approach; instead it is running a "lowest price technically acceptable competition that does one thing and one thing only—it reduces the chances that our warfighters will receive the most superior plane on the market."

Shelby appears to have made a logical argument, when he said that if DOD is right that revelation of the old pricing data is of no import, DOD should have "no issue whatsoever" providing Boeing's old data to Northrop.