It was the ultimate Washington cliche: A Pentagon competition for a multibillion-dollar contract that pitted an American company against a foreign one — and states versus other states for precious skilled jobs.
Oh, and the American firm’s headquarters just happened — due to the Air Force’s inability the previous decade to complete a competition — to be in the same city from which the president of the United States hailed.
Cliche Alert: The Air Force’s KC-X competition was a political hot potato.
So what did the Obama White House want to know about the competition, according to one former top Pentagon official, before it was over? Not. One. Thing.
“The White House didn’t know who won until they watched our press conference,” former Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn told Defense News editors and reporters on Monday.
The evening before that Feb. 24 Pentagon press conference to announce Boeing had won a $31.5 billion contract to build 179 flying gas stations for the Air Force, Lynn said he called the West Wing to inform them whether the Chicago-based company or the North American arm of its European rival EADS had won.
What did the White House say when Lynn placed that call? “We don’t want to know.”
“We’ll watch,” Lynn says he was told by Obama administration officials.
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