March 4, 2008

$$ leaving on a big jet airliner

Boeing lost out on a bid to provide the Air Force with tanker planes worth $40 billion. They lost to Northrop-Gruman who is teamed with the European company that makes Airbus planes. Naturally in the Seattle area there is an outcry, but many people around the country were surprised/outraged about the decision.

The $40 billion would certainly have provided a boost to the economy, though not likely soon enough to cushion the current downturn/recession. Some of the money will stay in the U.S. as the planes will be assembled in Alabama, though the pieces will be built overseas. To send the contract to a foreign company rankles many people. Why would they do this?

Turns out that of the five deciding criteria, Boeing tied for one but lost out on the other four. In addition: "The reviewers concluded that if they funded the Northrop Grumman proposal they could have 49 superior tankers operating by 2013, whereas if they funded the Boeing proposal, they would have only 19 considerably less capable planes in that year."

This contract was originally going to go to Boeing with out being bid out. This was fought in 2001 by Senator John McCain among others. Now that Boeing has lost, there will likely be an appeal of the decision.

Many people have been outraged at no-bid contests in the past, so the complaints on this one are a bit hollow. To suggest that Boeing should have been given the contract despite a worse bid seems counter to the (justifiable) outrage over pork-barrel politics and bills stuffed with subsidies. I guess you can rail against the $300 hammer, unless of course your town makes the $300 hammer.

According to this editorial (Depressing Karma), Boeing actually blew one of their best chances at winning the contract when they destroyed the tooling for the MD-11 airlifter shortly after they bought McDonald Douglas in the late '90s. Of course the letter writer is in France...

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