Whatever the merits of the Pentagon’s decision to award a multibillion dollar refueling tanker contract to a European company, instead of Boeing, this is political dynamite. My guess is that a lot of people living in the insular little world of inside the Beltway Washington, DC don’t see this: but they will see it soon enough.
In a surprising reversal for the Boeing Company, the Pentagon on Friday awarded a multibillion-dollar contract for refueling tankers to a partnership between Northrop Grumman and EADS, the European parent of Airbus.
The deal, which puts a critical United States military contract into the hands of foreigners, at least in part, calls for spending up to $40 billion on the first phase of a multidecade program to replace the nation’s aging aerial tanker fleet, which dates back to the Kennedy and Eisenhower era. The fleet, which now numbers about 535 refitted Boeing 707’s and DC-10’s is one of the largest but oldest fleets of jets in the world. Yet the tanker planes are essential to keeping Air Force and allied fighter jets, bombers, cargo planes and other military
So let’s add things up: the United States is on the cusp of a recession, our trade balance is in the toilet, the dollar is nose diving and our government’s response is to ship billions of dollars and thousands of jobs overseas. Oh, and by the way, the contract in question is for a critically important military aircraft, raising whole other issues, whether valid or not, regarding national security.
To state the obvious, this is not going to go over well, even if the foreign corporation in question managed to buy a few Southern Senators with promises of a few jobs in Mississippi and Alabama.
I’ll be interested in seeing how Obama and Clinton play this. Again, I can’t speak to the technical merits of the decision, but politically, the smart move has to be to say no freaking way. Then let McCain, who (for good reasons it turned out) squirreled the deal for Boeing, explain why this is a good thing.
Good luck on that, Senator.
Update: Following up on my comment about “people living in the insular little world of inside the Beltway Washington, DC” not recognizing how much controversy this will cause, check out the Washington Post’s take on the story. Of all the reports I’ve read, it’s the only one that doesn’t even discuss the issue of the government outsourcing of jobs to Europe (although it does mention new jobs being created down South). Talking about the concerns of workers is just so non-insider.
Update two: According to the Pentagon, “the Air Force had made its decision without regard to the number of American jobs at stake.” I wonder if most Americans will agree with its priorities.