Hope for Boeing pact lies with GAO

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The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers on Friday called for the Northrop/EADS’ contract to be terminated and the tanker order awarded to Boeing.

“This process has been deeply flawed from the beginning,” said the union’s general vice president, Rich Michalski. “We need to decide as a nation if billions in taxpayer dollars should be used to support job creation programs overseas while this country slips deeper into recession.”

Boeing said its tanker proposal would support 44,000 new and existing jobs at the company and more than 300 U.S. suppliers.

But the contract’s mandate was not to support U.S. jobs, said Richard L. Aboulafia, an aviation analyst with the Teal Group, but rather “to get the best plane for the best price.”

“There’s a lot of toxic messages on both sides, but both are very good planes that can carry out their missions,” he said. Either plane would be a modified version of a civilian jet, which has long been the Air Force practice in developing refueling tankers. Boeing designed a tanker based on its 767, while Northrop/EADS based its plane on the larger Airbus A330.

The Northrop/EADS team do have a few allies on Capitol Hill, mostly members of the Alabama delegation whose state stands to gain thousands of jobs if the contract is upheld.

Northrop/EADS estimates that its deal will support 48,000 U.S. jobs, including more than 1,500 new positions in Mobile, Ala., where the tanker would be assembled.

In a letter published in the Hill newspaper Tuesday, Alabama Republicans Sens. Richard C. Shelby and Jeff Sessions, and Rep. Jo Bonner accused Boeing supporters in Congress of “waging a public relations campaign based on misinformation and rhetoric.”

“We find this approach both unfortunate and a disservice to our men and women in uniform,” the lawmakers said. “From the outset, the objective of the acquisition was clear: acquire the best new tanker for the Air Force.”

The Alabama lawmakers added that “the global environment in which we live makes it virtually impossible for any major military product to be 100 percent American-made.”

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