Documents on botched lease/buy deal are handed over to Congress, while EADS North America resumes discussions

Hundreds of internal documents relating to the US Air Force's botched lease/buy deal for 100 Boeing KC-767 tankers have been handed over to the US Congress. Meanwhile, EADS North America has quietly resumed a dialogue with USAF officials about its interest in the programme.

Senator John McCain has been fighting Pentagon officials for months to win release of thousands of pages of additional documents relating to the lease/buy deal, blocking confirmation hearings for senior political appointees until the military responded.

The first group of "a couple of thousand documents" was transmitted to the US Congress last week, says Larry DiRita, a top aide to US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But the DoD intends to limit public access to the details of the documents, as several pages of internal emails make references to people not directly involved in the air force's lease/buy deal.

"You want to try and limit the distribution of those kinds of documents as much as possible because it's not really fair to individuals who are sort of mentioned in somebody else's email, if you will," says DiRita.

Lawmakers have already requested another batch of documents. "It's the secretary's strong inclination to be as responsive as we're capable of being," says DiRita, "with the proviso that the White House has a view on these things."

The air force launched a tanker lease programme in November 2001, but eventually agreed to a modified lease/buy deal last year. A contract was signed in November 2003, but was suspended in early December after Boeing acknowledged two former executives linked to the deal, including ex-chief financial officer Michael Sears, had acted unethically. Earlier this year, Rumsfeld ordered the air force to restart the programme by performing an analysis of alternatives, now scheduled for release in November.

In early July, the air force openly began seeking ideas from industry as it conducts its analysis of possible options. EADS North America, which has proposed a tanker variant of the A330-200 to the air force, has confirmed it has responded to the service's request for information.



Source: Flight International