No Date Set Yet for USAF Tanker Re-bid
July 19, 2009
PrintEmail to a FriendAnalysis by: Doug McVitie, MA
Analysis of: Boeing vs. Northrop tanker contest may start in Sept
Published at: www.heraldnet.com
There's a French expression, "mener à bien", which perfectly sums up what needs to happen in the forthcoming USAF tanker contest. It means roughly, "to do (it) properly" or "to reach a proper result". This latest delay in re-bidding this contract is evidence the DoD is finally trying to get it right. Third time lucky...
There are many in the aerospace and defense industry today who believe Boeing will build USAF's next fleet of tankers. But whichever side you take, and there are 10,000 clichés available to support either one, the basic premise remains the same -- politics, not aircraft economics will decide.
Although the tanker debate is less of a bloggers' paradise (it's too serious an issue, and anyway USAF doesn't give airmiles) and more of a Beltway problem, an awful lot of rubbish has still been written about the twice-failed attempts by the DoD to conduct a proper contest here.
As then-presidential nominee Walter Mondale famously mimicked a quarter of a century ago, "Where's the beef?".
The beef is actually less about the Northrop Grumman-led joint bid with EADS based on the Airbus A330 or about the competing Boeing 767 or 777, it's all about political taste. And as far as taste goes, I'm afraid this beef has gone off, senators.
How come? Simple. Whoever (Boeing) wins Round Three of this one-round contest, the victory will be tainted by open or covert accusations of bad faith, under-the-counter dealing, political interference, blatant protectionism and sheer jingoism, etc. Sort of like a boardroom blueprint for Airbus that, when you come to think of it...
USAF and the much-vaunted urgency of the tanker-replacement contract will play second fiddle to the breast-beating baloney of the losing team. What is more important? Political correctness run riot, or doing the job properly?
EADS has made a number of tactical errors in this contest, the DoD has made even more and to complete the sweep, Boeing has called it wrongly too. There are extenuating circumstances in all cases (well, except maybe for the DoD's crass incompetence) but when it all comes down to it, political expediency not technical prowess will be the final arbiter. And political expediency dictates a Boeing victory.
Unless someone somewhere comes up with a compelling set of arguments that will result in this award being split, the die is cast, surely. Or at least it will be once the DoD finally re-opens the contest in a couple of months.