Buy American provision likely to die in Senate, critics say

A House Armed Services Committee-passed provision that could ban European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company subsidiary Airbus from competing with Boeing for the Air Force's lucrative tanker contract is not likely to survive the Senate.

House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., offered the amendment during the final hours of marking up the fiscal 2006 defense authorization bill.

It would prohibit the Defense Department from contracting with foreign firms that receive government subsidies, as Airbus does from European countries.

The amendment is another move by Hunter to make it more difficult for foreign defense companies to land pricey Pentagon contracts.

But the Senate Armed Services Committee, which launched an investigation that eventually ended Boeing's overpriced contract to lease tankers to the Air Force, will oppose the provision when the authorization bill reaches conference later this summer.

"The provision has a snowball's chance during a hot August conference period of surviving," said a Senate aide. "We know their position and their bias."

Similar attempts by the House committee to write more stringent Buy American requirements have not survived previous authorization conferences. In recent weeks, Airbus has announced that it will team with Raytheon for the tanker, which the European giant plans to build in the United States.

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