Thursday, May 01, 2008

Air Force tanker deal could be campaign issue


by Frank James

As has been widely reported, the Air Force stunned almost everyone yesterday by deciding to award its huge, $35 billion contract for new airborne refueling tankers to a partnership formed by Northrop Grumman, the Los Angeles-based company, and EADS Inc., the European maker of Airbus airliners.

Boeing, headquartered in Chicago but with a large workforce in Washington State, was the big loser. Boeing had said that if it got the contract to build the new tanker based on its 767 airliner, it would provide enough work to keep 40,000 U.S. workers busy.

But Boeing lost. So the aircraft will be built in Europe, with the conversion work being done in Mobile, Ala. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Mobile operations would employ far fewer people than Boeing says it would have, apparently 1,200 to do the modification work.

Aerospace workers protest in Everett, Wash. after the Air Force announced it chose Northrop Grumman Corp. and Airbus parent EADS over Boeing to supply air-refueling tankers, on Friday, Feb. 29, 2008. (AP Photo/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Dan DeLong)

This is obviously not making people in Washington State happy. The Seattle P-I puts it this way:

Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., a senior member of the House panel that oversees military spending, predicted "a firestorm of criticism about this decision." He said many lawmakers "don't want Airbus building this plane."

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., told reporters she was "frustrated, angry and in shock at this announcement."

The state's senior senator said she couldn't understand the choice of giving a massive contract to a foreign-based business, considering that the U.S. is teetering on a recession.

"You can put an American sticker on a plane and call it American, but you can't call it American made. They are clearly going to be made overseas, and that is a factor we all have to be thinking about, whether we want American planes built overseas."

Murray said Boeing will be debriefed by the Air Force later this month on why it lost out, and the company could then appeal the decision. The Government Accountability Office then has 100 days to examine the appeal, Murray said. She said it was premature to speculate on a congressional inquiry, but added, "We clearly want to be supportive of Boeing and find out the facts."

Because of the jobs issue, this Air Force decision seems tailor-made for Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton who in their increasingly populist appeals have made the loss of American jobs a major presidential campaign issue, especially as they compete for labor votes during the primaries.

And in the general election, there'd likely be little political risk for the Democratic presidential nominee in bashing the Air Force since the state that will benefit from the decision, Alabama, is so far from being a swing state, it is so reliably Republican, we might as well put it in Republican column already.

Meanwhile, criticizing the Air Force's decision will just fire up Democrats and independents in Washington State, which may prove important for either Clinton or Obama in a race against Sen. John McCain who has strong appeal to independents and could conceivably do better than the 46 percent of the vote President Bush got in that state in 2004 in his race against Sen. John Kerry who won 53 percent.

There's also likely to be an affect on congressional campaigns. House members are all up for re-election this year in a very difficult economy, which may not be officially in a recession but feels that way to many Americans, including quite a few who will be angered by the Air Force decision.

In the Air Force's defense, creating jobs in the U.S. wasn't part of its goal. It said it wanted to get the best it could aircraft for taxpayers' money and the various missions it envisions the new aircraft flying.

That goal clearly came across during yesterday's Pentagon press conference. Here's an extended exchange between reporters and Air Force Gen. Arthur Lichte and and Assistant Defense Secretary Sue Payton had with a reporter.

Q Eric Rosenberg, Hearst Newspapers. Were either of you surprised, or do you think your colleagues will be surprised by the selection? And then secondly, do you think that there'll be blowback from congressional types, concerning for the fact -- the simple fact that this is not just Northrop Grumman, there's a high foreign component in this?

GEN. LICHTE: Well, I think it's simply a great day for America. I think this is a move forward. When you ask if we're surprised, we are just happy to be moving on. Every day in Air Mobility Command, we're launching sorties and we're engaged in the fight. There are some 1,000 sorties that are being flown right now around the world; 250 of them are tanker sorties out there. And so for me, as the commander of Air Mobility Command, every 90 seconds we can see an Air Mobility aircraft rolling down a runway somewhere in the world. And so for me, it's not a surprise. We are working hard every day.

What this is, is relief, because we know that in the future years, we will have a new tanker, because tankers are what really enable the fight. We can look all over the world from space, and then when we find a problem, if we need to put bombs on target, it's the tanker that enables that, or we can go with an outreached hand for humanitarian airlift. So --

Q But institutionally, it is a surprise. I mean, Boeing has been building these for so many years that it has to strike your colleagues -- it must strike your colleagues as something curious.

GEN. LICHTE: I guess I'd tell you to turn back the clocks and look at the last time we bought a new tanker, when we were discussing whether we were going to buy 747s or DC-10s built by McDonnell Douglas. And so we have a combination of Boeing tankers -- certainly from the years '56 to '64 we had some 700 tankers built by Boeing -- but we've also had tankers that were built originally by McDonnell Douglas.

Q And the foreign element? Do you think that you're going to get some blowback from Capitol Hill about this?

GEN. LICHTE: This is an American tanker. It's flown by American airmen. It has a big American flag on the tail, and every day, it'll be out there saving American lives.


Q Justin Fischel with Fox News. The contract is going to EADS, then, which is overseas. Boeing argued, however, that it would create about 40,000 American jobs here. Did that weigh into your decision at all? Obviously, with it going to EADS, there won't be as many American jobs created. How do you respond to that?

MS. PAYTON: Well, I'd be happy to respond to that. I -- the RFP is not involved with -- the requirements of the RFP were not such that this was taken into consideration. The RFP had to do with requirements that the warfighter needed, and we balanced the requirements of the warfighter with the best value for the taxpayer, relative to how much this system is going to cost and how well it's going to perform.

Q And just to follow, did size matter in this issue? I mean, the KC-30 is twice as large as the 767. Did that play into cost savings, and was that an issue in this decision?

GEN. LICHTE: Well, I -- from a warfighter's perspective, and I know the team looked at a whole number of things, but from my perspective, I can sum it up in one word: more.

More passengers, more cargo, more fuel to offload, more patients that we can carry, more availability, more flexibility and more dependability. And so from my aspect, the team did tremendous work and now we will take that and put it into the fight.

So the Air Force believes it and U.S. taxpayers got more. But there are tens of thousands of U.S. aerospace workers who believe they got less, and the shaft.

The New United States Air Force Tanker – Made in France, WHAT THE HECK!

The American Flag and United States Air force, emblazoned proudly on the side, but deep inside this US Military air tanker, “Made in France” is stamped on every single part of this plane. How could this be possible?

Is it not enough we have compromised our national security by depending on foreign oil from countries that hate the United States and everything we stand for?

Now we want to send US Tax dollars to companies that are subsidized by socialized governments who only want to export their goods and services to the United States, but bar access to their markets for products made here in the United States?

This is just the latest in short sighted mistakes with ever increasing long term consequences.

Remember Spyglass readers, we are talking about military planes that will be carrying US Airmen and women in harm’s way, not passenger planes flying folks to warmer weather and golden tans.

No we are talking about strategic metals and new technologies like anti-missile defense technology currently used on Air Force One. Do we dare allow foreign government’s access to this technology or allow them to develop systems to overcome these systems and sell on the open market?

Have we forgotten how France refused over flight rights to our F-111 bombers when asked by then President Ronald Reagan to retaliate against Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi’s role in bombing a West Berlin nightclub frequented by US serviceman? What would happen if the Governments supporting EADS refused to send spare parts for our tankers because they didn’t agree on our military decisions? This is just unbelievable we should be putting our country in this potential jeopardy.

Here is another example of what happens when Military Technology is allowed out of the control of the United States.

Citing national-security concerns, two Democratic lawmakers are engaged in a last-ditch effort to halt plans for the transfer of an Indiana factory that produces critical technology in the guidance systems of U.S. "smart bombs" to the People's Republic of China.

The Department of Defense denies any impropriety, but some observers are asking: Is it a case of politics as usual, or a cover-up?

The Magnequench factory (originally known as UGIMAG) was sold in August 2000 to a consortium that included Chinese interests. In 2001, it was announced the US plant would be shut down and relocated to China.

The factory is responsible for producing 80 percent of the rare-earth permanent magnets used in the guidance systems of U.S. "smart bombs," according to lawmakers.

Now let’s look at some of the facts of this so called fair competition. Aside from the National Security Issues involved here, how about the actual technical differences between these two choices. Just a few observations from the Air Forces own observations.

"The fact that the Air Force gave Boeing the highest possible rating in mission capability and cited the KC-767 Advanced Tanker as having three times more strengths than the Northrop-EADS tanker in this most important category further highlights the inconsistencies in the selection process," said Mark McGraw, vice president and program manager for Boeing Tanker Programs. "As for protecting flight crews on the most dangerous missions, the Air Force evaluated Boeing's tanker as much more survivable than the Northrop-EADS tanker."

"Despite the changes made in favor of the KC-30 in the area of mission capability, the evaluation was clear in its assessment," McGraw said. "The Air Force identified 98 strengths and only one weakness with the KC-767, while they pinpointed 30 strengths and five weaknesses for the KC-30, including four weaknesses in aerial refueling."

The Air Force gave Boeing high marks in aerial refueling. Evaluators cited the ability of the KC-767 to refuel the V-22 Osprey, which the KC-30 was evaluated as not being able to do. They cited the KC-767's better maneuverability while flying heavily loaded into a refueling zone, and they said its refueling flight deck displays and communications systems were better than the KC-30's. Evaluators also found three weaknesses in Northrop/EADS' boom design and an additional weakness in their ability to be a receiver due to the lighting of their receptacle.

In contrast, the Air Force said the KC-767 met or exceeded all key performance parameters in the mission capability requirements evaluation. Among some of the other key strengths: aero medical evacuation, enhanced navigation system, better use of airport ramp space, better cockpit displays and communications systems, and more likely to integrate into operational use faster with new equipment and future growth.

"Also of significant concern for us is the fact that the Air Force settled for a plane that is ultimately less survivable for flight crews performing their vital missions in war zones," McGraw said. "In providing technology and features that can keep the airplane more survivable for the men and women flying them, the Air Force determined that the KC-30 is less survivable than the KC-767." The Air Force found that in the critical area of combat survivability, the Boeing tanker had nearly five times as many strengths as Northrop's. The Air Force said Boeing's strengths totaled 24 and gave just five for Northrop-EADS.

"The superiority of the KC-767 in the critical area of survivability compared with the corresponding 'weakness' of the Northrop/EADS plane should give war fighters and American taxpayers alike cause for concern as the GAO continues their review.”

And guess what else folks, the KC-767 can currently land on all our military runways and can use the current hangers and ramps of the 50+ year old KC-135’s. The French Built Airbus will require longer runways, wider taxiways, and bigger hangers to support. So where exactly is the savings to the US Taxpayer?

Just what the heck were they thinking? Well we can thank Presidential Candidate Senator John McCain and some corrupt Boeing executives for this screw up. In a March 13, 2008 article written by Patrick J. Buchanan for the San Francisco Chronicle her writes.

"The commonest error in politics," said Lord Salisbury, "is sticking to the carcass of dead Policies." Lord Salisbury's rule comes to mind on reading of John McCain's delight at the $40 billion contract awarded the French-led parent of Airbus - to build the next generation of U.S. Air Force tankers.

The contract could run to $100 billion and is a body blow to Boeing in its duel to the death with Airbus. Two-thirds of all air-to-air refueling tankers are used by the United States. The contract gives a 30-year lease on life to the expiring Airbus A330 and means early death for Boeing's 767, the U.S. model for the tanker.

Congratulating himself for having exposed corruption in the Boeing bid, McCain purred,

"I have always insisted that the Air Force buy major weapons through fair and open competition."

If McCain thinks Airbus has prospered through "fair and open competition," he is beyond recall. In its first 25 years, Airbus sold 770 planes but did not make a dime in profit. It was started as a socialist cartel, subsidized by the governments of Spain, France, Britain and Germany, to invade and capture a market owned by Americans who built the planes that won World War II.

Airbus drove Lockheed and McDonnell-Douglas out of the business of commercial aircraft and almost took down Boeing. And like indolent buffalo munching grass as they are shot one by one, we let it happen.

Lost U.S. jobs should not be our primary concern, said McCain, "I've always felt the best thing to do is to create the best weapons system we can at minimum cost to taxpayers."

But if McCain thinks cost trumps all in building weapons of war, why not outsource the building of U.S. carriers, cruisers, destroyers and submarines to the foreign shipyards that construct America's merchant ships?

Why not outsource the scores of thousands of U.S. government jobs handling Social Security checks and tax returns to Bangladesh and India?

When Europe imposes a 15 percent value-added tax on U.S. imports and rebates the VAT on exports to the United States that is not free trade.

When China devalues its currency 45 percent as it did in 1994, and bolts it down to suck jobs and factories out of the United States, that is not free trade.

When Japan manipulates its currency, preaches economic nationalism to its people, and shelters its market for TVs, autos and steel, while dumping into and capturing ours that is not free trade.”

We need to stop this train wreck. We cannot afford the security compromise or the loss of high technology jobs to foreign competitors that have the central banks of their countries subsidizing their operations, at the expense of American Technology and American Jobs.

As FDR once said, with a little updating “All we have to fear, is the Government Itself”

Captain Mark

Religion & Ethics - Oxymoron?

Religion & Ethics?

This is how the Deseret News combines these two diverse issues on it's on-line website. I never really thought about this before, but does this make sense? It would appear that these two issues here in the State of Utah have about as much in common as Senator Harry Reid from Nevada and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff.

Now thats what I call an Oxymoron

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