Rhetoric remains intense

Published 2:48 pm Monday, April 28, 2008

By Staff
There has been a lot of conversation in Washington - some of it rather heated - since the Air Force's decision on February 29 that Northrop Grumman would build America's new refueling tanker, the KC-45.
The level of intensity following this announcement is, in many ways, understandable. As Americans, we are highly competitive by nature. You never enter a competition with any goal short of winning, and win we did.
As you know, Mobile has been selected to be the site of two new manufacturing facilities that will employ at least 1,500 people and support 5,000 jobs throughout a tri-state area. Brookley Field, shuttered in 1964, will once again come alive with the sound of rivet guns in the cause of our national defense.
In addition to KC-45 production, Mobile has been tapped to produce another large commercial aircraft (the freighter version of the Airbus A-330-200), employing at least 20,000 workers nationwide.
Mobile will become only the third city in the world capable of producing large, wide-bodied commercial aircraft.
On the other hand, cities in Washington state and Kansas have been at the center of all-things-tanker for the past 50 years. The so-called “experts” were saying - literally up until the announcement was made - that Boeing was the prohibitive favorite in the competition.
The shock, angst and outrage over losing are understandable. The desire to appeal the decision was natural, and Boeing exercised its option to lodge a formal protest which is now pending before the General Accountability Office (GAO). During this protest period, the Air Force has suspended all work on the tanker contract.
The GAO is the proper forum to which to appeal. They serve as the impartial arbiter of all protests of Department of Defense (DoD) contract awards. This is the well-respected process that ensures integrity and fairness in DoD's competitive source selections. The GAO is expected to issue its ruling by June 19, 2008.
Unfortunately, in recent days, some Members of Congress have said that the GAO ruling doesn't really matter. One Member said, “We hope the GAO decision comes out, but regardless of that, Congress has a responsibility to correct one of the worst decisions in modern history.”
If there is no competition, rest assured both the American taxpayer and the American warfighter stand to be the biggest losers. Regretfully, there are those who are willing to throw out the longstanding, credible system of defense procurement, simply to reverse the outcome of a single contract.
The GAO is currently validating the integrity and fairness of the decision process. We should avoid the slippery slope of which Secretary Young warns and let the longstanding process yield the final word.
Jo Bonner is a member of the house of representatives. He may be reached at his website at bonner.house.gov.