Written by Rep. Dennis McKinney
June 26, 2008
In March, the United States Air Force awarded a $35 billion contract for building airborne refueling planes to Northrop Grumman Corporation and a European partner. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently ruled that this decision was based on a critically flawed process, recommending the bidding be reopened. The ruling is great news for Boeing and for Kansas.
The Boeing tanker is an unrivaled aircraft, offering greater capability and operational flexibility than the Northrop Grumman Airbus A330. American workers maintain unparalleled distinction in the construction of military equipment, as evidenced by Boeing’s KC-135 Stratotanker. The KC-135 has excelled in providing core aerial refueling capability for the United States Air Force for more than 50 years. It is imperative for our men and women in uniform that this quality of work be upheld, which would be guaranteed by a Boeing contract. For these reasons, coupled with security concerns that arise from outsourcing military projects, it is strategically wrong to send the contract overseas when we can build a better product right here at home.
In addition, outsourcing the project denies the United States millions of dollars in economic benefit. A Boeing contract would keep or retain approximately 44,000 skilled jobs in the United States, with many of those jobs in Kansas. Boeing’s Wichita facility has been a prime aircraft engineering, fabrication and assembly center for decades. Thousands of Kansans have actively contributed to Boeing’s track record of success since the 1920s. Given the present unstable condition of the economy, taxpayer money should not be spent to fund economic growth in foreign countries. American workers deserve the opportunity to benefit from the jobs this project would create.
The GAO confirmed that the Air Force based its original decision on inconsistent standards, unreasonable evaluation, misleading discussions and unacceptable administrative errors. Our communities expect accuracy, efficiency and thoughtful analysis at all levels of government- especially when it pertains to our nation’s military. The Air Force has a responsibility to reopen the bidding process under impartial and proper terms. Kansas working families cannot afford to let this opportunity go overseas. With a fair review, I believe that Boeing will emerge as the stronger choice- it simply makes more sense.