Defence Contract Was Won Fair And Square




 
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Boots
 
March 10th, 2008  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Defence Contract Was Won Fair And Square


Financial Times
March 10, 2008 By Richard Shelby
From the moment the US air force announced the decision to award a $35bn contract to supply aircraft-refuelling tankers to Europe’s EADS and its US partner Northrop Grumman, there were outcries from members of Congress whose parochial interests lie with the rival offering from Boeing.
The contract is the largest acquisition programme in the history of the air force. To have expected controversy not to follow, regardless of the winner, would have been foolish. What is unfortunate in the controversy is that the uproar is based upon mendacity, rather than logic and reason.
The objective of the acquisition was clear from the outset: acquire the best new tanker for the US air force. The air force, in a lengthy, full and open competition, determined that the KC-30 was superior to Boeing’s KC-767 and was the best tanker to meet its needs. To claim at this late date that our military will not be getting the best plane simply because the contract was not awarded to Boeing is illogical and ignores the facts. The KC-30 has more capacity to offload fuel, and carries more passengers and cargo, thereby giving the air force more capability, flexibility and dependability. It outperforms the KC-767 not only by industry standards but, most importantly, by the standards of the air force, which rates it superior in every one of the five categories used.
Charges have been raised that by awarding a contract to a foreign company, national security may be at risk because the US military would have to rely on foreign suppliers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The prime contractor of the team that won, Northrop Grumman, is no less an American company than Boeing. While Northrop’s proposal uses a European-designed airframe, a close scrutiny of the two competing proposals shows that the two have a similar amount of foreign content.
This is hardly the first defence programme to be awarded to a US-European team. Boeing itself was part of a team that recently won the army contract for the joint cargo aircraft – an Italian-built aircraft that will be assembled in Florida at a Boeing facility. There was no outcry at this award from Boeing’s supporters, even though it would seem that the joint cargo aircraft programme would similarly “take American tax dollars and build this plane overseas”.
The global environment makes it almost impossible for any major military product to be 100 per cent US-made – especially when our goal is to provide the best equipment for our war fighters. Moreover, US aerospace firms have supplied billions of dollars’ worth of equipment built by Americans to foreign countries.
As members of Congress, we are concerned about US jobs. But any assertion that this award “outsources” jobs to France is simply false. With a new assembly site in Mobile, Alabama, this contract will bring tens of thousands of jobs into the US. According to the job-forecasting tool from the department of commerce, Northrop Grumman will employ about the same number of US workers on the tanker contract as Boeing would have. The Northrop Grumman tanker team will employ about 25,000 US workers at more than 230 supplier companies in 49 states.
Congress must remain as objective as possible and insist on due process. Invalidating the award, starting the process again or inserting prohibitive language into legislation to block the tanker acquisition would be irresponsible and based on raw emotion. Should Boeing choose to protest, the Government Accountability Office will determine whether this award was properly executed and we must let regular oversight prevail.
This was a fair and open competition, and I do not believe a protest will be successful. If the original decision is ratified by the GAO, it is imperative that the air force not be forced to overturn a decision simply because there are some who do not like it. Politics should have no place in the Department of Defense’s acquisition process.
“Facts are stubborn things,” John Adams once said. If the US air force and members of Congress wanted the tanker to be a job-creation programme for Boeing, they should have eschewed a competition and sole-sourced the contract in the first place. Instead, the intent was to provide our soldiers in uniform with the best air refuelling aircraft in the world, at the best value for the taxpayer. In the final analysis, that is precisely what the air force did.
The writer is Senator for Alabama, senior member of the appropriations committee and a member of the appropriations subcommittee on defence.