Northrop Grumman Corp.'s chief executive said Congress would undermine the entire government procurement process if it tries to block a $35 billion Air Force contract won by his company and its European partner, the Associated Press reports.


Two days after Boeing filed its official protest of the air tanker award, Northrop Chairman and CEO Ronald Sugar said letting Congress step in and change the rules of the procurement game would make companies simply not want to play.


"How do you get companies to bid when you discover at the end of the day that Lucy pulls away the football?" Sugar said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It would discourage companies from making significant investments to compete and then the Defense Department wouldn't get full competition. The stakes here are bigger than just one contract."


On Feb. 29, the Air Force awarded a high-stakes aerial refueling tanker contract to what many considered the underdog team of European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. and Northrop Grumman. The contract to replace 179 refueling tankers is the first of three Air Force awards worth as much $100 billion to replace the entire fleet of nearly 600 tankers over the next 30 years.


While no Charlie Brown, Northrop Grumman and EADS weren't expected to beat out Boeing, which has been supplying refueling tanker to the Air Force for five decades.


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