25 February 2011

Boeing's Lobby Dollars Trump Mission Effectiveness (UPDATED)

Look, the USAF tried every way they could to dick up the tanker deal. Really.
They sent details of the rivals bids to each other.
They had a Ukranian company bid on the project.
They pissed off Northrup so much that they told the Air Force to suck their jet fuel and let EADS front the bid themselves.
And they had Lou Dobbs shouting a populist sermon that focused on job creation, regardless of the net effect on actual, y'know, combat missions.
So after Boeing has been running non-stop Washington radio and TV ads for a year about the EADS tanker (if anyone has a transcript or recording, please let me know) finally cashes in their hard-spent lobbying / bribery / public psy-ops campaign dollars with the award of the new tanker contract.

Here's the official DoD release of the KC-46A Tanker Contract Award.

The Department of the Air Force announced today the award of an engineering and manufacturing development contract valued at more than $3.5 billion for the KC-46A aerial refueler to Boeing Co. of Seattle, Washington.

The Air Force-led selection effort included experts from the larger Department of Defense community, including the office of the Defense Secretary's staff and independent review teams during each step of the process.

"Many factors were evaluated during the tanker selection process,” said Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley.

Selection "took into account mission effectiveness in wartime and life cycle costs as embodied in fuel efficiency and military construction costs," said Donley, emphasizing that both offerors met all the mandatory requirements.

“The thorough and transparent selection process was marked by continual dialogue with offerors to ensure the Air Force had a clear understanding of their proposals and the companies clearly understood the service's analysis of their offers,” said Donley.

"Gen. Schwartz and I are confident in the fact that when our young pilots, boom operators and maintainers receive this aircraft, they will have the tools they need to be successful at what we ask them to do," Donley said.

"To the men and women of our Air Force, today's announcement represents a long-overdue start to a much-needed program," Donley said. "Your Air Force leadership, supported by others throughout the Department of Defense, is determined to see this through, and we will stand behind this work."

The program will deliver the first 18 aircraft by 2017. Basing decisions for the aircraft will take place over the next couple of years.

Look, we called this a while ago. There was no way Congress was going to buy a European design over a US one during a recession, even if Boeing's was made with concrete and had 3 wings and square landing gear. So everyone remember this moment if/when we ever have planes unavailable for CAS b/c we couldn't keep enough tankers in the air near the combat zone. It was more important to put constituents to work in voting districts than it was to put steel on target in support of soldiers in harm's way.

If you doubted the headline...

The Center for Responsive Politics has this damning comparison of lobbying expenditures.
In 2010, Boeing spent more than $17.8 million on lobbying expenditures, placing it first among companies in the defense aerospace industry. In contrast, European Aeronautics Defence and Space Company (EADS) only spent $3.2 million on lobbying during the same period, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis of lobbying data finds.

And based on the numbers being thrown around for the deal ($35B for 179 planes, $3.5B for the first 18), you're looking at aircraft that cost $194M each, +/- a few hundred thousand. That's a lot of lobbying dollars built in.

By: Brant

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