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Sticking up for the home team – in Alabama

Post by David Seago on March 4, 2008 at 4:02 pm with No Comments »
March 4, 2008 4:02 pm

The Air Force’s choice of Airbus/Northrop Grumman for the big air tanker contract was the result of “logic and reason.” The angry reaction from Washington’s congressional delegation is based on “mendacity.”

So says Alabama U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (pictured).

Shelby would naturally think so, given that the Airbus team promised to do final assembly of the tanker in Mobile, Ala., creating at least 2,000 new jobs in that state.

Here’s Shelby’s defense of the decision, delivered on the Senate floor Monday.

Last Friday, the United States Air Force announced that the Northrop Grumman/EADS team won the contract to assemble our military’s next generation of air refueling tankers, known as the KC-45.

This decision awarded the largest acquisition program in the history of the Air Force.

To have expected controversy not to follow, regardless of the winner, would have been foolish.

However, it is that the uproar from the losing side is based upon mendacity, rather than logic and reason.

After the announcement, some falsely proclaimed that our military was selling out to a foreign country;

That this award would outsource U.S. jobs;

That these planes should be made in America.

The facts behind this selection should allay any of my colleagues’ fears or concerns.

Northrop Grumman/EADS’ capable, advanced, multi-mission tankers will be made in America by American workers.

Any assertion that this award "outsources" jobs to France is simply false.

This award does the exact opposite – It insources jobs.

In Mobile, where the tanker will be assembled and modified, 1,500 direct jobs will be created.

Throughout Alabama, 5,000 total jobs will be created.

And this contract has ramifications well beyond Alabama’s state lines.

Friday’s announcement also means that 25,000 additional jobs at over 230 companies around the country will be created by the Northrop Grumman/EADS tanker win.

This will result in a $1 billion annual economic impact on the U.S.

It is also important to note that job creation was not a factor that the Air Force considered in making their selection.

The objective of the acquisition was clear from the outset: acquire the best new tanker for the U.S. Air Force.

Five factors were used to score the two competing proposals: mission capability,

proposal risk, past performance, price, and the Integrated Fleet Air Refueling Assessment.

The Air Force, in a lengthy full and open competition, determined that the KC-30 was superior to the KC-767 and is the best tanker to meet the Air Force’s needs.

The Air Force rated the KC-30 superior in every one of the five categories used to assess the tanker offering.

This illustrates that the Air Force made the right selection not only for the men and women in uniform, but for the taxpayer as well.

To claim otherwise is simply illogical.

Additionally, charges have been raised that by awarding a contract to a team with a foreign company, our national security may be at risk, because the U.S. military would have to rely on foreign suppliers.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The prime contractor of the team that won, Northrop Grumman, is no less an American company than is Boeing.

While Northrop’s proposal uses a European-designed airframe, a close scrutiny of the two competing proposals shows that both have a relatively similar amount of foreign content.

Further, this is hardly the first defense program to be awarded to a U.S-European team.

In fact, Boeing itself was part of a team that recently won the Army contract for the Joint Cargo Aircraft – an Italian-built aircraft that will be assembled in Florida, at a Boeing facility.

I find it quite ironic that there was no outcry at this award from Boeing supporters, even though it would seem that the Joint Cargo Aircraft program would likewise "take American tax dollars and build this plane overseas."

The global environment in which we live makes it virtually impossible for any major military product to be 100 percent American made – especially when our goal is to provide the best equipment for our warfighters.

Moreover, U.S. aerospace firms have supplied billions of dollars worth of equipment built by Americans to foreign countries.

As Members of Congress, we are concerned about U.S. jobs.

Yet any assertion that this award "outsources" jobs to France is simply false.

With this new assembly site in Mobile, Alabama, this contract will bring tens of thousands of jobs into the U.S.

According to the Department of Commerce, Northrop Grumman will employ approximately the same number of American workers on the tanker contract that Boeing would have employed had they won.

"Facts are stubborn things," John Adams once said.

If the U.S. Air Force and Members of Congress wanted the tanker to be a job creation program for Boeing, they should have eschewed a competition and sole sourced the contract in the first place.

Instead, the intent was to provide our men and women in uniform with the best refueling aircraft in the world, at the best value for the American taxpayer.

In the final analysis, that is precisely what the Air Force did.

I am very proud to know that the KC-45 American tanker will be built by an American company employing American workers. This decision is great news for the warfighter, the American worker, and the U.S. taxpayer.

Taking notice
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