State ‘enriched' by tanker

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, March 12, 2008

By Staff
On Feb. 29, the United States Air Force announced that the Northrop Grumman/EADS team won the contract to assemble and modify our military's next generation of air refueling tankers, known as the KC-45. This day, and this announcement, will forever improve the economic landscape of south Alabama.
Mobile is expected to gain 1,500 jobs with the tanker contract, an additional 300 jobs with the follow-on commercial A330 work and approximately 5,000 supplier-related jobs statewide, contributing $875 million annually to Alabama's economy.
While it is a huge win for Alabama, this acquisition program will have ramifications well beyond the state line. The entire region, and many areas throughout the country, will see the positive impact of this selection. Indeed, tens of thousands of jobs throughout the nation will be added due to the Northrop Grumman/EADS tanker win. The initial order of 179 aircraft, valued at $40 billion over the next decade, will have a total annual economic impact of more than $1 billion on the U.S. economy.
After the announcement, some in Congress falsely proclaimed that our military was selling out to a foreign country, that this award would outsource U.S. jobs and that these planes should be made in America.
The facts behind this selection should allay any of my colleagues' fears or concerns. Northrop Grumman/EADS' capable, advanced, multi-mission tankers will be made in America by American workers. The Air Force is not outsourcing jobs with this selection; it is doing the exact opposite - insourcing jobs - to the tune of 25,000 additional jobs at more than 230 companies around the country.
It is also important to note that job creation was not a factor that the Air Force considered in making its selection. Five factors were used to score the two competing proposals: mission capability, proposal risk, past performance, price and the Integrated Fleet Air Refueling Assessment, also known as IFARA. In every single category, the Northrop Grumman/EADS KC-30 exceeded the Boeing KC-767. Simply put, the KC-30 platform is far superior in every way. This illustrates that the Air Force made the right selection not only for the men and women in uniform, but for the taxpayer as well. To claim otherwise is simply illogical.
The road to get here was long. Approximately three years ago our congressional delegation, elected state and local officials and community leaders made the case to EADS that Mobile was the ideal location for the tanker production facility. It was an uphill battle as we fought off countless erroneous attacks against the Northrop/EADS offering.
We were always considered the underdogs against a behemoth defense giant. No one ever imagined that Mobile would be home to the production of a new U.S. Air Force tanker and Airbus' A330 commercial work. In the end, however, our journey proved fruitful. South Alabama will forever be enriched by this decision.
Richard Shelby represents Alabama in the U.S. Senate.

Email newsletter signup