Wednesday, March 5, 2008

3-5-08: The Boeing Tanker Contract Scandal

It's interesting, being in the aerospace industry, to read or hear about the recent Boeing tanker scandal regarding the big Air Force contract.
From my point of view, it isn't good that a European company is getting the contract for our economy, but I strongly doubt that factored in to the decision. I listened to a radio program that featured Congressman Norm Dicks, a Democratic Representative from Washington state's Sixth District ("Boeing Country"). His ignorance in the bidding process shined like a beacon. He kept talking about many factors that were completely irrelevant and baseless accusations of wrong-doing.
I completely agree with Dicks' argument that it will mean lost job opportunities. That's a very fair point. But it's a completely irrelevant point in this instance. The real question is whether or not Congress will fund the program, which it will likely not do since the contract has been given to a European company. Having politicans argue over the decision made by engineers and professionals working in the Air Force is completely irrelevant. Why was the contract competitive? Where were the politicians then? I understand that John McCain had something to do with making it competitive, but that was a different time in the American economy. It's not like this was all done in a week. This was a years-long bidding process. It's wonderful to see politicians care about American jobs. That's really good to see. But they're not making sense within the correct context.
I completely agree that it's important to keep our aircraft being made in America. But what does this mean to the competitiveness of the American aerospace industry? It's very important to stay competitive. Our country has the best aerospace companies in the world, my company included. Why are we ignoring the fact that Boeing should have won this contract hands-down? I think this is a slap in their face. They're a very well respected and wealthy company with a lot of success. They should have won this contract, but my guess is that this will help them to wake up and improve their performance.
Here's what I think will happen: Congress won't fund it until Boeing is selected. It's a bit corrupt, but that's how it is. It's important to remember that the bidding process doesn't factor in the economic factors. It's fine to not pay for it if you feel it's not the right move for America in general, but the Air Force picked the supplier based on solid fundamentals. They are separate issues.
It's also interesting to see how this, again, plays into party politics. EADS' partner Northrop Grumman will be assembling the tankers in Alabama, a "Red state." Washington, where Boeing is, is a "Blue state." Gotta love Red vs. Blue. I wonder what would happen if this weren't the second largest defense contract in history…

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