Archive for December, 2009

Boeing Appreciates Congress

Recently 125 members of Congress wrote a letter that was sent to President Obama and released publicly to try and get the U.S government to take punitive actions against EADS and Airbus for receiving illegal subsidies. The World Trade Organization (WTO) supposedly has ruled on that a few months ago. The case is still ongoing with counter charges and reviews. Many in Congress who support Boeing feel that this should be taken into a account when the KC-X bids are reviewed. Although Northrop Grumman and EADS have threatened not to participate.

Boeing releases a statement about the letter and their appreciation for the Congress Members actions:

“Boeing is encouraged to see such strong bipartisan congressional support for U.S. action to end the illegal subsidies that European governments have for decades provided to Airbus at the expense of American industry and its workers.

“Despite an imminent final WTO ruling on illegal subsidies, Airbus appears poised to extend and continue the practice of using illegal subsidies for its new aircraft, the A350. This new plane directly targets America’s aerospace industry and the tens of thousands of workers who design and build aircraft in the United States.

“As stated in the congressional letter to the president, our government policies should not reward foreign governments or companies that benefit from illegal subsidies. We look forward to working with Congress to ensure this matter of principle and of important policy is enforced.”

EADS and others have made claims that Boeing through its military contracts over the last sixty years has received the equivalent of these subsidies themselves. That case is still pending at the WTO.

Of course the Defense Department needs two bids to efficiently carry out the competition so all this back-and-forth may ultimately have no effect.

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Senator Murray (D-WA) Illustrates She Knows Nothing About U.S. Economy

The competition between Boeing (BA) and Northrop Grumman (NOC) for the KC-X contract is pretty hot. As with many of these contracts the states that stand to benefit the most legislators are supportive. The states being Washington and Kansas for Boeing and primarily Alabama for Northrop. At the same time it doesn’t help anybody to throw insults around and play loose with facts.

Recently Senator Patty Murray of Washington was on National Public Radio (NPR) and supposedly said that “I would challenge anybody to tell me that they’ve stood on a line in Alabama and seen anybody building anything.” Ms. Murray demonstrates taht she knows little or nothing about the U.S. economy and Alabama’s contribution.

Mercedes Benz and Honda make thousands of cars a year in Alabama one assumes on a production line. Hyundai has a 500,000 car a year plant as well. Boeing employs thousands of people in the state as well working for NASA and the Defense Department. So she insulted those people while supporting them at the same time.

The contest should be above such petty insults.

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Presumed Bidders Meet With Air Force

It has been reported that last week Boeing (BA), Northrop Grumman (NOC) and EADS (EADS.P) had a series of meetings with the Air Force to discuss the draft KC-X RFP and the final one. After these meetings EADS and Northrop made clear that their threat not to submit a bid without changes to the RFP language was not an idle negotiation ploy as some have said. The companies believe that the current RFP is biased towards the smaller, cheaper Boeing 767 rather then the larger Airbus 330.

The discussions also indicate that the final RFP will come out before the end of January. Without two bidders it will be hard for the Air Force to proceed so they need a proposal from Northrop and EADS. At the same time they must have an RFP that will hopefully be protest proof and get the needed capability quickly.

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Split Buy Again?

One of the solutions that has been mooted to solve the KC-X issue is to buy aircraft from both Boeing (BA) and EADS (EADS.P). This would certainly eliminate many of the issues around the source selection. The Defense Department and Air Force have not supported this idea in the past due to the logistical costs related to operating two dissimilar aircraft. Of course the problem the Air Force faces is that the KC-30 and KC-767 are too dissimilar.

Some in Congress and in the industry suggested the split buy last Summer and now it has been raised again. If Northrop Grumman (NOC) does refuse to submit a bid then the contest is on hold unless there is the will to do a sole source contract again. The split buy would solve that issue and keep Northrop playing.

We will have to see how this plays out.

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Northrop Congressional Supporters Continue Harsh Words

Last week Northrop Grumman (NOC) and its partner EADS (EADS.P) wrote a letter to the Defense Department stating that they are not interested in bidding on the KC-X contract if the current RFP language stands. Their argument is that it is currently biased towards a smaller aircraft which means that it is set up to give Boeing the contract. In their eyes there is no reason to go through the motion of bidding just not to win.

This of course caused all sorts of critics to rise up and claim that Northrop was trying to force the Government to bias the RFP and contract towards Northrop. Basically this is an attempt to blackmail the Government. The problem the Air Force has faced is that they need to write a RFP that gets them the best value bid meeting all of its requirements and is done in such a way that no protest occurs. This is proving difficult to do. The two aircraft, KC-767 or A330, are dissimilar enough that the requirements have to be carefully chosen. At the same time there is a great deal of pressure in Congress to support American companies and products. This is the state that the U.S. has gotten itself into by allowing only one major source of aircraft of this size to remain — Boeing (BA).

Now Northrop’s supporters in Congress are striking back. In a recent editorial the Congressman for Mobile, AL where EADS will assemble the aircraft, Jo Bonner (R-AL), writes that it is unfair to tar Northrop. In his eyes the Government is going out of their way to award a sole source contract to Boeing. This violates the spirit if not the law on contracting. He writes “And the reason Northrop Grumman, and its partner EADS, was not playing a game of chicken is because the draft RFP, released by the Air Force in September, has been all but written to guarantee the pre-selection of the smaller, older and much less capable Boeing 767”.

That is the crux of the problem. The Government lost the last attempt to award the contract competitively. Their attempt to let a sole source lease to Boeing before that was overturned by Congress. This next round doesn’t look good either. There is a crying need for this capability and it lags because of politics, industrial policy and poor management.

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