The Government Accountability Office has tossed the Northrop Grumman/EADS refueling tankers contract back to the Air Force. This is a big relief to Boeing, which was stunned in March when they lost out in a competition that could be worth as much as $40 billion.
Boeing filed a protest after the consortium of Northrop Grumman/EADS, EADS being the European aerospace giant that has been competing savagely, and successfully, with Boeing for the world’s commercial airline business for more than 30 years, was chosen by the Air Force to provide 179 KC-45A aerial refueling tankers. The KC-45A is based on the popular Airbus A330 twin engine widebodied airliner. Boeing’s submission was based on the Boeing 767, a similar aircraft, but a decade older design.
If you took the trouble, faithful reader, to refresh your memory regarding the March award by clicking on the link above, then you know that this story is a true Washington lobbyist soap opera.
GAO Agrees with Boeing in Air Force Tanker Contract
By Dana Hedgpeth | Washington Post Staff Writer | Wednesday, June 18, 2008; 2:04 PM
The Government Accountability Office has sustained a protest from Boeing on a $40 billion contract awarded to rival Northrop Grumman to build new aerial refueling tankers for the Air Force, saying “a number of significant errors” had been made in the evaluations of the heated competition.
The GAO said it recommends that the Air Force “reopen discussions with the offerors, obtain revised proposals, re-evaluate the revised proposals and make a new source selection decision.” The Air Force has 60 days to tell the GAO how it will proceed.
Boeing, which built the Air Force’s existing tankers, filed a protest with the agency on March 11 after it lost the deal to build 179 new refueling aircraft.
This is all reasonably fresh news; when I grabbed it, it was just two or three hours old. By the time you read the story here, the subtext may have become somewhat less subbed.
[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]
Long story short (as the longest winded person I know always says, but always fails to deliver), this Air Force procurement battle is as much about globalism, and jobs lost to globalism, as it is about military affairs.
No matter who is doing the evaluation, keeping mission critical American military technology in American manufacturers’ hands is not only good military policy and good security policy, the employment aspect makes a U.S. choice good public policy.
Boeing has always played the procurement game fast and loose, and has paid dearly for that looseness recently: (I’m sorry, your Honor, [sorry I got caught!]).
But if the Air Force meant to show the world it was independent of lobbyist intervention, they chose a pernicious test case to do so. It’s best that the bid process be reopened.
But, here’s what I mean by subtext.
As someone in the Comments area of the Post’s story pointed out, straight-talking John McCain has been closely connected with lobbyists for EADS, among many, many, many others, people, for many years.
While the story mentions Congressional pain emanating from the Boeing factory states of Kansas and Washington, it fails to remind us, as I am happy to, that several years ago, Boeing moved its corporate headquarters (stunning its original home, Seattle) to be two time zones closer to the investment community, to Chicago, Illinois. Anyone remember the name of the junior Senator from Illinois?
Yr (justifiably) humble svt can’t help but wonder whether the “fiercely independent” GAO is somehow responding to the 2008 presidential election standings. Reminding the Air Force to consider carefully where it really wants to place its bets regarding who will be the next president. After all, in late February the issue of McCain’s opponent was yet very much in doubt.
It’s it for now. Thanks,