Can you say “FRENCH FUSELAGE” without a queasy feeling? Wasn’t it Boeing’s fuselages over Normandy that saved the French from the Nazi’s? What have the French done for us lately?
Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about the Air Force’s choice of Airbus parent EADS to build $35 billion in military refueling tankers. At a gut level, I hate the idea of my tax dollars being used for this. But EADS and its partner Northrup Grumman say 60% of their tanker, the KC-30 based on the Airbus A330 airframe (KC-45 in Air Force parlance), will be built here and will support directly and indirectly support 48,000 new jobs in 49 states, up from it’s original 25,000 job estimate. Of the craft’s major subsystems, the wings will be built in England and the fuselage in France. The GE engines and final assembly will be covered here.
The finger-pointing and flag-waving has begun because it’s un-American to use tax payers dollars to fund an American defense run by the French, right? One Washington state congressman said it was the “worst thing in his life.”
Make no mistake about it. This is NAFTA, Part II. But before you wrap yourself in the flag, look at the facts. Boeing does business all around the world and there is no question on the commercial side, it earns its keep by building great passenger jetliners and freighters. Despite delivery delays, the 800 or so orders for the Boeing 787 is proof of that. But Boeing also builds military aircraft and sells them to just about every foreign ally we have. It even provides tankers for the military in Italy and Japan. Citing irregularities, Boeing is protesting the award with the Government Accounting Office.
As for the quality of the two bids, Air Force officials were slated to defend their choice in Congress today (the capitol building was evacuated today by a private plane violating Washington air space). But its press release just out today saying it had received the Boeing protest mentions nothing about testifying before Congress. The Air Force claims the decision represents the best deal for American taxpayers and war fighters. One insider says the EADS-Northrup bid is bulletproof and that the Air Force was extremely thorough in its selection, which it claims was evaluated by independent sources.
Losing the tanker contract is a blow to Boeing’s prestige, bottom line and highly skilled work force. In November, Boeing has said the contract would have supported 44,000 new and existing jobs and 300 American suppliers. But the EADS bid means jobs, too.
There, now. You can say “French fuselage.” Can’t you?