By Roxana Tiron - 02/19/10 07:53 PM EST
A bipartisan group of governors is getting behind Boeing in a politically charged competition to win a $35 billion Air Force refueling tanker contract.
Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) and Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson (D) are in Washington for the National Governors Association conference and will be lobbying while here. Their states have the most at stake, as Boeing has large operations in each.
The Air Force is expected to start its official selection process for the lucrative contract. The Air Force's attempts to replace its Eisenhower-era tankers have been mired in controversy and political battles.
Boeing and Northrop Grumman have been going head to head for several years for the contract. Northrop Grumman partnered with EADS North America, the parent company of Airbus and Boeing's rival in the commercial aircraft market.
The Northrop-EADS team won the contract last February, but Boeing successfully protested that award with the Government Accountability Office. The Pentagon subsequently decided to reopen the competition.
After that happened, Northrop threatened in December to pull out of the competition. The company complained that the new bidding process was stacked against it and that without changes to the selection criteria it could not submit an offer.
Northrop’s and EADS's supporters were in town last month making their case that the tanker contract should be split between the two competitors.