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Updated: July 8th, 2008 05:26 PM CDT

Defense Companies Battle Over Lucrative New Satellite Program

Associated Press Writer

Said Negroponte's spokesman Carl Kropf: "This is what the law provides for him to do - to look across the intelligence community and its programs, offer his recommendations and make key decisions."

Congressional aides and industry experts say it is tough to defend Boeing, given the magnitude of failure on the contract it won in 1999. Yet public discussion is muted because of the highly classified nature of satellite programs.

Boeing has a number of allies in Congress, but only California Rep. Jane Harman, the House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat, has publicly opposed Negroponte's decision to take the work away from Boeing. She called it "heartbreaking."

Harman's district includes the facility where Boeing does this satellite work. She believes there are better options that will protect competition among U.S. aerospace companies.

"Bad management should not be rewarded," she said in an interview. "On the other hand, what we need to keep our eye on is gaps in capabilities - these are national security issues - and the health of the industrial base."

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