Skip to comments.Push for dual tanker buy resurfaces
Posted on 01/28/2010 3:04:14 PM PST by jazusamo
With the nations economy still sagging, grass-roots advocates for the new Air Force aerial refueling tankers are bucking the Pentagon with a renewed pitch: Buy from two bidders and create thousands more jobs.
The team of Northrop Grumman and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. has threatened to pull out of the bidding for the tanker contract worth $35 billion, arguing that new draft specifications favor the other bidder, Boeing. So, with only about a month remaining before the Pentagon will release its final specs in the latest round of the tanker competition, officials from the states that would make the Northrop tankers are trying to keep their team in the game.
Northrop and EADS plan to assemble their tankers in Mobile, Ala. And officials from Alabama and surrounding states have resurrected the Pentagon-rejected idea of buying two types of tankers some from Northrop and some from Boeing.
Mobile Mayor Sam Jones kicked off the latest lobbying push with a visit to the White House last week during the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He slipped a letter to an administration aide during the trip, appealing to President Barack Obama for a change in the tanker competition.
Jones is convinced that if the administration is already spending billions to stimulate the economy and create jobs, it could spend more on two production lines and support about 90,000 jobs a good deal for taxpayers and the economy. And by replacing the aging Air Force tankers faster, the competitive dual procurement could save the Pentagon billions in maintenance and operating costs.
If were going to bring about change, youve got to change some of the things you do, Jones told POLITICO, suggesting the tanker competition, which already has been scuttled twice amid roiling controversy, could fail again.
I dont see how were going to move forward with the contract as it stands today, he said.
In addition to appealing directly to the president, Jones recently made the rounds on Capitol Hill, meeting with key Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
Jones has grass-roots support from the Aerospace Alliance a business group with backing from politicians in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida that supports the two-tanker buy and will be blanketing Washington media markets with ads this weekend, said Neal Wade, director of the Alabama Development Office.
Boosting employment in the South, where thousands of textile jobs have vanished in the past decade, is critical, Wade said. But the alliance isnt advocating a straight buy from the Northrop Grumman-EADS team.
Wade notes the importance of both Northrop and Boeing to the Southeastern United States, including 3,300 Boeing workers in Huntsville, Ala., and more in Florida.
The push for two tankers isnt a new idea. Last year, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committees Defense Subcommittee, and Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), then-chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, backed the idea of buying planes from both vendors.
But they didnt fight the Pentagons opposition.
The only reason people are pursuing the idea of a split buy is ... that they think its the only way that we can move forward in getting any kind of a tanker; that the competitors will be in such a place with respect to Capitol Hill that we just wont be able to move forward, said Defense Secretary Robert Gates last year. If we do this right, theres no reason a protest would be upheld, and we could move forward with ... an approach that is the best deal for the taxpayer and also the best deal for the Air Force in terms of not having to maintain dual logistics trains, dual training systems, dual maintenance, all the things that go along with them.
And it doesnt appear that Gates will budge. A dual buy makes absolutely no sense for the military or the taxpayers, said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell in an e-mail.
Since the Government Accountability Office overturned the last award to Northrop in 2008, Boeings political position has improved.
For starters, the White House, including the president and several of his top advisers, are from Chicago, where Boeing is now headquartered.
The Washington state delegation, a consistent advocate for Boeings tanker bid, last week got an additional boost. Abercrombie, whos leaving Congress to run for governor of Hawaii, relinquished his subcommittee chairmanship. And his replacement, Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, is from Washington.
As such, the company and its supporters are lining up a prevent defense pledging full support for whatever the Pentagon decides.
The Department of Defense and U.S. Air Force will decide the acquisition strategy for KC-X, said Boeing spokesman Bill Barksdale. Boeing is prepared to follow their lead, and we support whatever type of acquisition our customer wants to put in place.
Grass-roots lobbyists on the Boeing side are another matter. Theyre adamant that one tanker, Boeings KC-767, will provide the best deal and make the most economic sense for the country.
The city of Everett has consistently been in the camp that a single buy makes the most economic sense, said Ray Stephanson, the mayor of Everett, Wash., where Boeing would assemble its tankers. We think that it is the right cost-effective solution for replacement of the tanker.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, directed officials to start rallying support. Shes recognized the need for some voices outside the Beltway on an American-built tanker, said her special aerospace adviser, Bill McSherry.
Within the next month, the Washington Aerospace Partnership, a group that brings business, government and labor together to advocate for the states aerospace industry, plans to announce a multistate coalition backing the Boeing tanker.
Labor leaders have already reached out beyond the states borders. For instance, Rick Bender, president of the Washington State Labor Council, has signed up support from leaders of the AFL-CIO in Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Oregon and Wisconsin.
And once the final specifications are released, the group is ready to begin pushing for Boeing in earnest. But theyre hoping the Air Force doesnt change too much.
If they stick to the [request for proposals], we think the 767 is a perfect fit for that bid, Bender said.
It would cost taxpayers billions of dollars more over the life of these tankers in training and maintenance if two are put into service rather than one and the USAF wants only one.
Oh, just give it to Boeing already... they have the better lobbyists.
focus on replacing the dems ..volunteer at the local level... make calls replace the dems...all of them
I hope they split it.
Boeing is going to get their share if they deserve it or not. The only way my area (Mobile, AL) gets any of this pie is if it’s split.
I’ve lost complete confidence in the process after all this garbage. The corruption is amazing.
You’re correct, the corruption is amazing.
If they split the contract, I say the corrupt politicians have won and taxpayers have lost.
Even though I live in WA I’m not pulling for either company. I’m pulling for the Air Force to get their replacement tanker and the taxpayers not getting ripped off more than they usually do.
Was it the politicians or the USAF that buggered this deal up, or both of them. In any event this deal is now a h*** of a mess for everyone.
politicians, although pro-Boeing advocates blamed the USAF and now they probably blame both.
I believe the original screwup was the fault of both Boeing and the Air Force and like you say it’s only gotten worse.
Doesn’t Boeing partner with China in this deal?
I am pulling for Northrop Grumman to get it. They won it fairly the last time.
It was the most transparent in military history. They even had an independent 3rd party that was in on every meeting to assure fairness.
Boeing lost so all of a sudden the military officers that conducted the contract were incompetent or corrupt. Yeah, right.
This nation is already screwed the way we’re increasing the national debt. If my area, benefits some from it, I am okay with it. In truth, Boeing doesn’t deserve a dime of this contract.
GAO found the SSA (AF) made reversible errors.
The source selection was flawed and Boeing had nothing to do with that, as the proposals were in and the AF source selection authorities were sequestered and prohibited contact from anyone from either camp, directly or indirectly.
“They won it fairly the last time.”
Not according to GAO.
Boeing never accused or inferred AF officials were corrupt, just in error.
You simply can’t issue an RFP and assess extra points for aspects not included within the threshold-to-objective band.
EADS will have more of it made in the US than B767. Same with commercial aircraft. A350 will have more US made components than the B787.
It was corrupt. I don’t trust the GAO either. It was all because of the political climate.
They were not in error in any material way.
Also, would very much like to see you review of the GAO points that indicate no material errors.
One last thing, because you are aware that GAO can only recommend--not direct--the source selection be reviewed/over-turned, why was it the SECDEF made the decision to over-turn the selection? Proof please, facts, not allegations of corruption. Links providing such facts would be good.
I don't think it was corrupt, just in error, as GAO points out.
To allege corruption would be to attack the source-selection team of Majors, Lt Colonels, Colonels and Generals of being corrupt.
Futher, I would never accuse as being corrupt the SECDEF's staff of Majors, Lt Colonels, Colonels and Generals that reviewed and acted upon the GAO's finding.
To insist corruption was at play at any stage of this process would be to attack the honor and integrity of the very servicemen we (you?) thank for their service.
Some may have no problem with insulting the very men and women that live the life, that know their decisions affect the national security of the United States, their families security and the lives of their friends serving in the field. But I won't do that.
Yada ... yada ... yada.
“You’ve got to provide information ... yada yada ... yada.” -— I am sorry but I am just using common sense. If you don’t know that they went into the last round trying to make it as fair as possible, moreso than any in history, you were left out of the loop.
So you won’t question the competency or integrity of these folks? Why are they starting the process over if everyone involved acted competently and with integrity? Are you saying they didn’t act with competency and with integrity? Are you questioning the integrity of those folks? AGAIN, WHY ARE THEY STARTING THE PROCESS OVER IF ALL THESE FOLKS ARE SUCH PROFESSIONALS?
It would be very hypocritical of you to question the competency or integrity of these folks that conducted the last round. If you cannot see that, ........ well, nevermind.
If you don’t believe there is political influence involved with these government contract, you’re new to this game.
Seems to be a lot of double-talk.
Sorry if I appear rude but I’ve seen more than enough boeing folks that think military contracts are an entitlement.
I get it.
The ‘ol “My-mind-is-made-up-so-don't confuse-me-with-facts” argument.
I say they made errors, like the GAO report says, which does happen.
Never attacked their integrity.
You say they are corrupt, yet offer no proof, and insult the honor and integrity of the troops that serve this great country.
We know now your opinion of US servicemen.
Have a nice day.