Kan. lawmakers dive into Air Force contract dispute

The lawmakers argued the Beechcraft bid was cheaper than Embraer’s, and also emphasized that the bid would have preserved U.S. 1,400 jobs, knocking Embraer as a Brazilian company.

“As the nation is facing immense financial hurdles, including a trillion-dollar cut to the Department of Defense over the next decade, it seems unwise to select a higher-priced supplier with a product of inferior quality,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Furthermore, that supplier is based outside the United States,” they added. “While the U.S. aviation manufacturing industry continues to recover, now is the time to invest in U.S. jobs and manufacturing, and not abroad.”

Embraer and Sierra Nevada rejected the claims that their work wouldn’t create U.S. jobs, as Embraer will produce the planes in a new facility in Jacksonville, Fla.

“The SNC award will support more than 1,400 American jobs, reflecting both the large U.S. supplier base — more than 100 companies will supply parts and services for the A-29 Super Tucano — and new jobs that will be created by SNC and Embraer,” the companies said in a joint statement.

This is the second go-around in the fight between Beechcraft and Embraer over the light air support contract, as Beechcraft sued to have the initial contract award wiped out last year. The Air Force said it cancelled the contract due to internal documentation problems.

The Air Force had the companies re-bid for the contract of 20 planes that are for the Afghan military. It awarded the contract once again to Embraer and Sierra Nevada last month.

Beechcraft, previously named Hawker Beechcraft, filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office (GAO), questioning the Air Force decision when its bid was lower and the AT-6 plane received an “exceptional” rating.

The lawmakers have asked Hagel to provide a “thorough, compelling explanation” of the contract decision.