Alabama Senator Defends Tanker Decision

Alabama Senator Defends Tanker Decision
March 13th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Alabama Senator Defends Tanker Decision

Alabama Senator Defends Tanker Decision
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
March 13, 2008 Air Force contract will create new jet-building center in U.S., he says
By Eric Rosenberg, P-I Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama said Wednesday that the consortium that defeated The Boeing Co. for an Air Force contract to build new aerial tankers will create a new aerospace manufacturing center in the U.S.
Speaking to a Senate committee, Shelby, a Republican, sought to portray the victory by a team of Airbus parent European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. and Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman as adding to American industrial strength, rather than detracting from it, as Boeing supporters have maintained.
Currently, Shelby said, there are only two aerospace manufacturing centers in the world capable of building large-scale jets like the tanker.
"Today, we only have Toulouse, France, and the Seattle, Washington, area that are capable of doing this," Shelby said. "We will have more capability" in U.S. aerospace manufacturing once the EADS-Northrop Grumman consortium builds tanker jets at a planned facility in Alabama.
"Mobile, Alabama, will become an industrial base for the assembly of these tankers," Shelby said.
Shelby spoke during a hearing of the Senate defense appropriations subcommittee, a key congressional panel that oversees and funds military projects. Witnesses who testified at the hearing were Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Gen. T. Michael Moseley, the service's chief of staff.
The Air Force shocked the aerospace industry Feb. 29 by choosing the EADS-Northrop Grumman team to build the new refueling tankers.
The initial program is valued at around $35 billion but could grow to $100 billion if the Air Force places additional orders.
Boeing has formally protested the contract award to the Government Accountability Office and is seeking to have it overturned. The Chicago-based company is mounting a broad attack on the contract, contending that there were "irregularities with the process of the competition and the evaluation of the competitors' bids."
While both competitors maintained that their tanker programs would produce numerous American jobs, Boeing supporters have asserted that the deal would send thousands of jobs abroad.
Northrop Grumman and EADS maintain that their tanker program will result in 25,000 American jobs nationwide distributed to 230 U.S. companies and that 60 percent of the work would be performed in the U.S.
At the hearing, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., criticized Air Force leaders for not taking into consideration the effect the contract award would have on U.S. companies that manufacture weapons for the military.
Wynne responded that U.S. law and Pentagon regulations are "extraordinarily complex" and don't allow the service to consider such industrial issues when weighing competing bids. But he conceded that Congress should take up the issue.
"The way our industrial base is shrinking is something the Congress should take a look at," Wynne said.
Murray also chided the service leaders for saying they wanted a medium-size tanker but then selected a larger one.
"You put out a request for proposals for a pickup truck ... and what you selected at the end of the day was an 18-wheeler," she said.
Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, the senior Republican on the panel, said his office had received "overwhelming mail -- on both sides of this issue -- about the question of the propriety of the foreign involvement" on the tanker.
Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., whose state also includes Boeing facilities, chided the Air Force leaders for selecting the EADS team. He said the selection of the Airbus plane would cost the government "hundreds of millions of dollars" in additional funds to build bigger hangers and servicing centers.

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