Pentagon officials to brief lawmakers on tanker contract

Pentagon officials will brief lawmakers Thursday on the status of a new Air Force refueling tanker contract.

Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn is expected to lead talks with Democratic and Republican leaders who sit on the Armed Services and Appropriations committees in both chambers, as well as the Defense Appropriations subcommittees.

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The officials will later brief the delegations from Washington state, Kansas and Alabama.

Pentagon acquisitions chief Ashton Carter and the Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley are also expected to take part in the talks.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced last week that the Air Force will resume charge of the tanker program and selecting the contractor. The Air Force had been sidelined since last year when Boeing successfully protested with the Government Accountability Office the contract award for the tankers to a Northrop Grumman-EADS team.

The $35 billion contract has caused a political storm over the last couple of years, with Boeing and Northrop-Grumman EADS supporters congressional supporters wrangling over which company deserves to win the lucrative deal. Boeing's most vocal supporters are from Washington and Kansas where the company has major operations, while the Northrop Grumman-EADS ones are from Alabama, where the team plans to assemble the new tankers.

Gates promised to share the new draft request of proposals with lawmakers. That draft request is expected to be issued within days.