U.S. Air Force makes a "fuelish" decision

March 13, 2008
By: Dan Davis

I"m not a believer that the U.S. government can save manufacturing. In fact, I"ve written about that issue before in this blog, and my Editor"s Corner in the April 2008 The FABRICATOR will address it again.

While it may not be able to save manufacturing, the federal government surely can stop inflicting undue stress on it. This whole fiasco with the U.S. Air Force awarding a $35 billion tanker contract to Northrop Grumman Corp. and European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. is just the latest example.

Boeing Corp. thought the contract was its. The plan called for converting 767s to meet the Air Force"s request for a new generation of flying refueling tankers. The Air Force, however, had other ideas as it preferred the modified versions of the larger A-330 planes, which it contended was technologically superior and more closely met its needs.

Shocked and awed, Boeing officials filed a formal protest with the General Accounting Office on March 12. The GAO can overturn the decision and force a new bidding process, but most industry observers feel Boeing has an uphill battle.

That"s a crying shame. The contract, which could grow to as much as $100 billion over the next 30 years, will benefit European companies and workers, including the FrenchMon Dieu!and create about 1,500 jobs in Mobile, Ala., where the planes will be assembled. Of course, the Northrop Grumman officials claim that thousands more indirect jobs will be created elsewhere, but that pales in comparison to the 9,000 direct jobs that Boeing would have created in places such as Washington and Kansas had it won the contract.

Boeing was carrying the stench of a scandal that had a Boeing executive improperly trying to influence an Air Force official responsible for overseeing possible contracts that involved Boeing. Boeing paid its price as it watched several of its executives, including the CEO, leave the company after the scandal.

Also, the Air Force claims they weren"t looking for mid-sized jets, such as the 767, for the job. I don"t care. The Boeing planes may not be as new as the Airbus versions, but they fly and hold fuel. That sounds like a winning combination to me.

When I heard about the $600 the U.S. Navy spent on a toilet seat, I laughed. When I heard about the desire of the U.S. Army to have its black berets manufactured in China, I shook my head. When I learned about the impact in jobs that this Air Force decision will have on the U.S., I gritted my teeth.

This decision should be overturned. It"s good for the U.S. manufacturing base and that should be a good enough reason by itself.

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8281

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