- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 25, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Sen. Richard Shelby’s assertion that the Air Force tanker bid was marred by politics (“Rigged in Boeing’s favor,” Op-Ed, Monday) takes Clintonian baldfaced lying to new levels. He is guilty of his own accusations.

For example, Mr. Shelby accused members of Congress of being “more concerned with jobs in their states than U.S. war fighters’ needs.”

He failed to mention that he has been lobbied heavily by Northrop Grumman/European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. (NG/EADS) with promises to build the tankers in Alabama, the state he represents.

He claims NG/EADS won after “a grueling but fair, open, and transparent competition.” Oh, it was transparent all right. It was so transparently crooked that the Government Accountability Office issued one of its most scathing rulings ever. It said the Air Force’s procurement office “conducted misleading and unequal discussions,” “did not assess the relative merits of the proposals in accordance with the evaluation criteria,” “violated the solicitation’s evaluation provision,” etc, etc.

Mr. Shelby avoided any mention of actual aircraft characteristics and performance, details that might be important to the tanker, such as size, weight, acceleration and maneuverability, not to mention price. The EADS Airbus loses on each of these.

The Airbus is much heavier and therefore cannot operate out of as many airports around the world as the lighter Boeing aircraft. The larger Airbus takes up more room on the tarmac; therefore, fewer of them can be staged at any given airport. The size and weight of the Airbus prevent it from performing required tanker maneuvers as precisely as the smaller Boeing aircraft.

Consider this very carefully: NG/EADS could have bid a smaller aircraft, more in line with the bid request, but chose not to. Conversely, Boeing could have bid a tanker based on its larger 777 instead of the smaller 767 had it known that the criteria specified in the bid request were going to be secretly replaced with unwritten criteria that favored a larger aircraft.

This suggests to me that the procurement was rigged for NG/EADS, and I am ashamed that my senator supports this scam.

J. KENNON

LEDBETTER

Trinity, Ala.

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