Pompeo: Air Force needs to be transparent about contractBy RICK PLUMLEE
The Wichita Eagle
Rep. Mike Pompeo said Thursday he’s still waiting to get a definitive response from the Air Force on why it excluded Hawker Beechcraft’s bid for a light air support contract worth up to nearly $1 billion.
During a teleconference that touched on a wide range of topics, Pompeo said he has sent several letters to secretaries of the Air Force and defense departments asking for an explanation. And he has received a letter back from Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley.
“It was nearly non-responsive,” the Republican congressman from Wichita said. “There was literally no substantive response contained in the letter whatsoever.”
Donley’s letter cited ongoing litigation as one reason to limit his response.
In November, Hawker Beechcraft was informed its bid had been excluded from the competition. The Government Accountability Office rejected the company’s request for a briefing along with its protest, saying both were filed after the deadline.
The GAO also said in its report that the Air Force could debrief the company if it chose to do so, but that hasn’t happened so far.
The Air Force awarded an initial $355 million contract on Dec. 22 to Sierra Nevada Corp., which partnered with Brazil-based Embraer to supply Super Tucano turboprops. But it didn’t announce the award until Dec. 30. Normally defense contracts are posted the day after they’re awarded, Pompeo has said.
Hawker Beechcraft filed suit in early January with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims asking it to determine whether the process was conducted lawfully. Company officials expect a decision by the end of March.
Because of the pending litigation, the Air Force issued a stop work order to Sierra Nevada until the case can be resolved.
Pompeo said Thursday that Donley’s letter also declared “once again that they have conducted a fair and transparent process.”
“It may well have been fair,” he added. “But I can’t answer that because it has not been transparent. It’s silly for them to say it’s been a transparent process. We’re just simply asking for a debriefing. Tell us how you did it, then we’ll evaluate that.”
Pompeo said he has broad-based support from more than a dozen other congressmen in asking the Air Force for an explanation.
“We now have a much broader coalition (in Washington) who understands that this is not just about Kansas,” he said. “It’s about taxpayers and a good procurement process. I’m hopeful the Air Force will come to their senses.”
He said he’s hoping to speak to Donley next week. He said he has been in touch with Steve Miller, Hawker Beechcraft’s new chief executive, about the issue.
Other topics discussed in the teleconference:
• Pompeo objected to President Obama’s health care plan that requires all nonprofits to start offering “recommended contraceptive services” in their employees’ insurance plans. Only churches are exempt; religious hospitals and universities are not. Earlier this week he said that the rule “literally shut down every Catholic hospital.”
He said the federal government is imposing its “view and what is right at the expense of forcing folks to violate their most deeply held religious beliefs.”
“But from my perspective it’s a whole lot broader than that,” he added. “This is not about a set of rules and one particular church. This is truly about a government that has refused to honor the most fundamental commitments in our constitution.”
• On the congressional redistricting bill passed this week by the state Senate, Pompeo said, “Nancy Pelosi likes it,” referring to the Democratic congresswoman from California.
Some Kansas Republicans have criticized the plan because it leaves Rep. Lynn Jenkins, the senior member of the state’s all-GOP delegation in the U.S. House, with a slightly more Democratic 2nd District. Legislators must redraw their districts and the state’s four congressional districts to account for shifts in population over the past decade. The Kansas House will consider the plan later.
The congressional map passed by the Senate has Pompeo losing Montgomery County from his 4th District and picking up Pratt, Barber, Comanche, Kiowa, Edward and Stafford counties from the 1st.
Pompeo said he would like to keep Montgomery because it’s a natural economic fit in his aviation industry-dominated district. Cessna has a production plant just outside Independence.
• On the stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline, Pompeo said, “We’ve got to get the whole pipeline finished so we can have affordable energy. I’m convinced there is a majority in both houses that want this pipeline built. I hope we can come together.” He said the section through Kansas is largely complete.
• Pompeo said funding battles over the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), set to be built in Manhattan, will continue for a long time in Washington. But he added the current facility in Plum Island, N.Y., is “on its last legs. We have to put in a new facility. NBAF will get built, I’m confident of that.” He said he still expects the facility to be built in Manhattan.
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