- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008


As mayor of Mobile, Ala., one of the nation’s most progressive cities, I am disappointed in the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.’s recent column regarding the Air Force refueling tanker competition (“European windfall,” which was published in Tuesday’s editions). By jumping on the Boeing bandwagon, he contradicts the commitments he championed just a few years ago for this region, and also the spirit of diversity advocated by the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.

In 2005, Mr. Jackson was in Mobile touting a Rainbow Coalition initiative to create jobs for our region. I find it difficult to understand why he is now supporting Boeing, which will take jobs from a city with a 48 percent minority population. The coalition has always promoted diversity and fairness. Mobile’s bid for the contract will strengthen diversity for citizens from all walks of life throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida — including those who lost their jobs as a result of Hurricane Katrina. If diversity is the goal, it can be better met in Mobile than in the Pacific Northwest.

Mr. Jackson overlooks the most important issue — getting the most modern and best aircraft for our men and women in uniform. Everything else, including Mr. Jackson’s parroting the Boeing misinformation campaign, has nothing to do with the real issue.

Here are the facts:

• There will be nothing better for the U.S. economy than the establishment of a second U.S. center to build large commercial aircraft. Immediately, two new factories will be built in Mobile — one by EADS for assembling tanker aircraft and one by Northrop Grumman for turning those aircraft into military tankers. That represents an industrial investment of nearly $500 million.Plus, Airbus, will also build commercial freighter aircraft in the same factory.The tanker activity alone will create 25,000 new American jobs at 230 U.S. companies. The U.S. economy and our military will both be stronger by having two centers of aviation production instead of one.

• Mr. Jackson should come to Mobile and see the new Airbus Engineering Center. This center was built and staffed with highly qualified engineers to support the most advanced aircraft design and manufacturing operations in the world. Ironically, Boeing’s last engineering center was built in Moscow.

• It is interesting that Boeing, (whose $66 billion annual revenue increased nearly $20 billion in the last four years), has slashed employment in Seattle from 120,000 to less than 50,000. Anyone who follows aerospace knows why: Boeing is aggressively shipping jobs offshore to Japan, Korea, Italy, China, Russia, India and any other place that has lower wages than Seattle. At the same time, EADS and Airbus have been creating new jobs in the United States, and will significantly add to that number when the refueling tankers are built in Mobile.

• Mr. Jackson repeats a number of Boeing’s unsubstantiated allegations against the Northrop team that have nothing to do with the real issue. Given Mr. Jackson’s record of advocacy and transparency, it’s surprising that he failed to mention that Boeing in 2006 paid the largest settlement in U.S. defense acquisition history — more than $600 million — resulting from its flagrant violations of federal procurement regulations.

I have a great deal of respect for Mr. Jackson, who is a powerful voice for those who seek equality of opportunity. In this case, his advocacy has been misdirected. This competition is not about my opinion or Mr. Jackson’s. Misinformation is the enemy of fair and open competition.

As an American citizen, veteran and an elected official, I’m pulling for the team with the best product — for our country and the brave service members that protect us.

Sam Jones, a Democrat, is mayor of Mobile, Ala.

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