General: Tanker data mix-up handled well

Boeing and EADS responded to a mix-up of data in the competition to win a $35 billion tanker contract "correctly and professionally," an Air Force general testified to a Senate subcommittee.

In November, disks containing bid data from each company were switched. Boeing received European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. information; EADS received Boeing information.

An EADS employee viewed one page of information containing 10 lines briefly before realizing the mix-up. Boeing did not view any of the EADS data, the companies have said.

The Air Force determined that the switch was unintentional and that the actions of employees involved did not violate the Procurement Integrity Act, Maj. Gen. Wendy Masiello said in testimony Thursday during a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The information exchanged was not proprietary, Masiello said.

It involved one screen shot of summary data related to the government's Integrated Fleet Aerial Refueling Assessment. The disks did not contain any pricing data, Masiello said.

"The summary page, an Excel spreadsheet, was open on the screen for a matter of seconds before it was closed when the company employee realized the mistake," Masiello said.

At issue is whether the competition between the companies is equal or whether EADS gained an advantage. To level the playing field, each company was given the same screen shot of each other's information, Masiello said.

The companies could also continue to update their proposals, she said.

Neither Boeing nor EADS has filed a protest in the matter. They are eligible to do so before or after the contract award, however.

The Air Force is expected to award the contract early this year, an Air Force spokesman said Friday.

Last year, a World Trade Organization panel found European governments guilty of providing billions in illegal subsidies for development of the Airbus A330 airframe, the plane EADS is using for its tanker platform.

Earlier this week, Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., introduced a bill that would require the Department of Defense to consider the impact of subsidies to Airbus when it awards a contract.

"That we've got foreign nations that are subsidizing companies and that's not relevant to our conversation — that doesn't make sense to me," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said during Thursday's hearing.