Smack Down

/ March 31, 2009 at 5:00 AM

This morning, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) fired at shot across the Capitol when he criticized senior House defense lawmakers for attempting to legislate a mixed buy of Air Force next-generation tankers.

Proclaiming his neutrality in the heated battle between Boeing and Northrop Grumman-EADS, Levin said: “I think the chances of getting something done are greater if there's a few people, particularly chairmen of a committee that's got some jurisdiction, who really are not tilted one way or another, not trying to shift the direction one way or another.

“I am honestly doing my very best to keep an open mind on this subject,” Levin said at breakfast meeting with reporters in Washington.

The senator's comments come after two prominent House lawmakers spent the last few weeks urging the Pentagon to buy both Boeing and Northrop tankers. House Appropriations defense subcommittee Chairman John Murtha (D-PA) has said he plans to introduce legislation mandating a mixed buy. House Armed Services air and land forces subcommittee Chairman Neil Abercrombie (D-HI) also said he favors a procurement split. Pentagon officials claim buying both aircraft would be a misuse of taxpayer money.

Today, Levin said he would discuss his personal view of the split. The senator also noted has not spoken with either Murtha or Abercrombie.

“I don't want to prejudge it in any way,” Levin said. “I don't want to say anything that gives any suggestion that I have prejudged, because I haven't.”

“If you say anything that even suggests prejudgment, or a judgment on this, it creates all kinds of mis-impressions and I just don't want to do it,” he added.

When asked if he believes a Pentagon-run tanker acquisition program could withstand congressional interference or mandates, Levin simply responded: “Yeah.”

-- Marcus Weisgerber