Politicians are working themselves into a frenzy attacking the recent Air Force decision to award a lucrative refueling tanker contract to Northrup Grumman and Airbus. As we mentioned just the other day (which got a brief mention in the Wall Street Journal!), this is rather silly as the NG/Airbus proposal provides U.S. taxpayers with a better product for less money. Isn’t that what competitive bidding is all about? Boeing has decided to formally protest the deal claiming the process wasn’t fair, which is rather remarkable considering that the original award to Boeing resulted in an investigation concluding that the company had rigged the process… and a Boeing exec even went to jail. Touche!
But here’s today’s rub, and why I’ve decided to comment on the issue yet again. Boeing and their running dog politicians are claiming that the contract award isn’t "patriotic." What is the basis for this claim? The perception that the contract will result in key technologies moving overseas… and more U.S. jobs going overseas. I say "perception" on purpose, as that is all it is.
What is the technology we’re talking about? The ability to convert an existing aircraft design into a tanker. Last time I checked that required removing some seats, adding a fuel bladder, and perhaps some pumps. But where was the outcry when Boeing moved leading edge composite design and manufacturing overseas as part of the 787 Dreamliner project?
Similarly, and far more significantly, is the jobs aspect of the argument. Boeing has laid off over 30,000 experienced knowledge-laden employees over the past several years. Many of those jobs moved to new overseas factories supplying major Dreamliner components. If Boeing had been awarded the contract, where would the jobs have been? Beats me.
But guess what… Airbus has announced that they are going to expand even more in the U.S.. In fact, a majority of their refueling tanker will be built in the U.S., with Alabama benefiting the most. More U.S. jobs.
And using that same logic, driving a Toyota or a BMW is becoming increasingly patriotic as the U.S. content of those vehicles is greater than some built by GM, Ford, or Chrysler. In fact, right next to the article announcing that Airbus plans to expand in the U.S. is another brief blurb on how BMW is spending $750 million to further expand its South Carolina plant, creating another 500 jobs. In the U.S..
Tomorrow, or the next day at the latest, I’m sure we’ll see more of the usual articles blathering on how difficult it is to be competitive from U.S. factories. The horrors of supposed "competitive burdens" forcing companies like GM, Boeing, and Nucor to move overseas to chase cheap labor. While somehow Toyota, Airbus, and ThyssenKrupp build new plants in the U.S..
If our workers are a national asset, and creating U.S. jobs is an indicator of patriotism… hmmm…