The Air Force made the right decision today in awarding a huge new air tanker contract to Northrop Grumman and EADS over Boeing. As I wrote in this column last year, the Northrop plane is by far the better option. Key section of that column:
Its capabilities exceed that of the Boeing KC-767 in a veritable host of measurements. Those indices range from maximum fuel load to maximum number of passengers (making it a dual-use plane) to payload tonnage to fuel efficiency and “mission effectiveness.”
The last four times the two planes have been in competition, including for tankers for Great Britain and for the West-friendly United Arab Emirates, the KC-30 (NGE’s) has won.
Not only that, but Boeing’s actual performance (on-time delivery, etc.) in recent years has been anything but stellar. And the whole reason the tanker is out to bid right now at all is that the Air Force’s earlier award to Boeing of the first $20 billion contract for the planes was so rife with corruption that a Boeing official and an Air Force officer went to jail and Air Force Secretary James Roche and Boeing CEO Phil Condit both resigned. Because of those shenanigans, U.S. Sen. John McCain was able to force cancellation of that deal and force it to be re-bid.
But there is another good reason for conservatives to be happy that Boeing lost out. Just yesterday, the Bush administration reported that it will take three extra years to build a key section of the border fence (or virtual border fence) — a development over which many conservatives are justly FURIOUS — because Boeing screwed up the technology. It would really beÂ a finger in the eye of strong-border-protection advocates to award such a huge contract to Boeing in the same week the story came out about the horrible delay (and expensive delay) caused by Boeing’s failures.
Of course, I still think the Air Force ought to have considered splitting the contract award, for all the reasons I listed in my original column — but if it did not split it, it made much more sense to go with Northrop’s bigger plane than with Boeing.
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