Boeing Boeing: Tanker Contract Awarded on Third Try

After a years long effort, including two previous contracts that were voided after outcry, the Air Force has awarded its $30 billion refueling contract to Boeing. I guess the Boeing executives who went to jail over this have finally earned their bonuses:
In a surprise twist to a long-running saga, the Air Force said on Thursday that it would award a $35 billion contract for aerial fueling tankers to Boeing rather than to a European company that buildsAirbus planes.

William J. Lynn III, the deputy defense secretary, said Boeing was “the clear winner” under a formula that considered the bid prices, how well each of the planes met war-fighting needs and what it would cost to operate them over 40 years.

After weighing all the factors, the Pentagon determined that Boeing’s bid was more than 1 percent below that of its rival, the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company, Mr. Lynn said. If the bids had been within 1 percent, the Air Force would have considered 92 additional requirements for the plane as a tiebreaker, and some of those were widely thought to favor the larger EADS plane.

The Air Force said the first phase of the contract would be worth $3.5 billion, and it would cover the construction of the first 18 tankers by 2017. Boeing would build 179 tankers in all for about $35 billion.

Boeing, its supporters in Congress and independent analysts were all surprised by the outcome, because in recent days, the Chicago-based company seemed to have given up hope of winning.

Lawmakers from Washington State, where Boeing assembles a substantial portion of its planes, had complained that the Pentagon had given EADS extra time to bid and had put in place several evaluation rules that seemed to favor the European company, which had submitted its bid through a North American subsidiary.

And the choice could still face opposition from lawmakers on the Gulf Coast, who were counting on EADS’s promise to build an assembly plant in Mobile, Ala., that would have created thousands of jobs.

“I’m disappointed but not surprised,” Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama, said. “Only Chicago politics could tip the scales in favor of Boeing’s inferior plane. EADS clearly offers the more capable aircraft. If this decision stands, our warfighters will not get the superior equipment they deserve.”

Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, called the decision “a major victory for the American workers, the American aerospace industry and America’s military.”

I'll be honest. The only reason I am writing about this is to have the chance to republish one of my favorite sentences from the last two years:
Was there anymore of an absurd spectacle (in 2008) - in a year of absurd spectacles - than that of an anti-war Green like Patty Murray rushing to demand that Boeing be given the Air Force's tanker contract, even after Boeing executives had gone to jail for corrupt practices in trying to procure said contract?
Patty Murray has been riding her "just a Mom in tennis shoes" schtick since the mid-1980's, but we all know that, were she a Republican, the media shorthand on her would be that she is the "Senator from Boeing" and that would be that. Instead, she can play to her anti-war "what if the Air Force had to hold bake sales?" base while simultaneously chasing after every Pentagon procurement dollar out there.

The Air Force says it needs these planes, and certainly in a procurement battle one company will win, while the other will lose. But this sort of contracting - where the process was repeated three times until the desired result was achieved - is more than a little reminiscent of electioneering in Democratic strongholds like, say, Washington State, where votes will be recounted over and over again until we have the "correct" result.

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