By law, the Air Force was prohibited from awarding on the basis of extrinsic factors like jobs creation and pending W.T.O. litigation when trying to decide which aircraft most satisfies the needs of our servicemen and women at the greatest value. Using both existing regulations and the acquisition strategy that the Pentagon itself developed and approved in the wake of the tanker lease scandal, the Air Force was required to conduct a competition – meaning that the best product should win.
As a self-proclaimed free trader, Mr. Hewitt understands that this is a global economy and many manufactured items are made up of parts that were designed and created from all over the world. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics states, “This healthy competition among both domestic and foreign manufacturers has dramatically increased productivity and improved efficiency.”
The airline industry is part of the global economy and it is specious for Boeing, or anyone, to argue that Northrop Grumman is somehow unique because its tanker will include foreign manufactured parts. For example, according to the Department of Transportation, out of the 17 airframe parts of Boeing’s 767, the commercial version of the tanker, 10 are manufactured by foreign suppliers, and its new 787 will be primarily manufactured by foreign suppliers.
As for national security concerns, there is no reason for alarm. The KC-45A will be built by American workers in the EADS plant in Mobile, Alabama. The conversion to a military tanker with sensitive technology will be performed at the neighboring Northrop Grumman facility. Ultimately, the protection of any important technology is up to the Department of Defense.
Regardless of the outcome of Boeing’s appeal, having once created a sweet deal for the company through an earmark, it would not be far-fetched to believe that Sen. Stevens, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), or another member would try to sneak a provision into the 2009 defense authorization or appropriation bill that would “guarantee” some of the work for Boeing. That would undermine some of the renewed confidence that taxpayers should have in the procurement process.
Efforts to undue the tanker contract based on vitriol and politics should be opposed. All that members of Congress and other critics should really be concerned about is getting the best deal for the taxpayers.