Boeing built a flock of tankers for the USAF forty years ago. They performed incredibly and have lasted unbelievably long. They earned respect.
But respect don’t feed the bulldog. They are in the heavy hauling airplane business and their hard earned monopoly among the airlines as Lockheed and Douglas dropped out of airliner production has been very effectively eroded by the upstart international cooperative EADS. The once niche producer of the early Airbus has now grown to offer a full menu of very competitive people haulers in all sizes from two-engine short haulers to aerial behemoths like the A380.
The Boeing folks thought they had a lock on the AF next tanker deal and crafted a single-source lease arrangement to supply the aircraft and in the process keep the company’s 767 assembly line busy for many more years. The only problem was a sweetheart kick-back set-up with the DOD’s procurement director. A plum executive job after retirement from government service was in the works for Darleane Druyen. But alas, it was not to be. John McCain blew the whistle.
Next step was cancellation of the contract and a competitive rebid. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. But something happened on the way to the big payoff. One of the survivors of the aerospace defense consolidation wars pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Northrop-Grumman cobbled together a proposal that took an EADS airframe, some US engines, an American boom system and lot of global sub-contractors and delivered a winning tanker. Throw in a new factory, 25,000 jobs in Alabama and you’ve got a great deal for the economy and the USAF.
Wailing and gnashing ensued from, of all places, the ultra-liberal Democratic congressional delegation of Washington state. Unfair, un-American, un-patriotic, un-reliable, dangerous and more. A publicity blitz of monumental proportions ensued banding together hundreds of pundits who collectively can’t tell where the hot air comes out of the jets to explain to the USAF what they really need. What we need is an investigation.
So they got one. The politically driven and demonstrably biased Government Accountability Office conducted an audit of the bid process. The conclusion was foregone. Bad AF—Good Boeing. Rebid.
So, a new RFP (Request For Proposal) is issued. Now we get this:
Take Your Bat and Ball and Go Home
This isn’t surrender. Don’t think that this means OK, we give up and Northrop/EADS wins. What it means is that they know they can’t compete fairly. They know that they must have the RFP shaped precisely to favor their airplane and disqualify the Northrop/EADS option. They further know that forcing the Pentagon into a single-source award is politically unacceptable. Let’s see, Obama sure to carry Washington; McCain a virtual lock in Alabama. Stretch to November and win the contract by default.
Whatever happened to the idea of doing what is best for your country?