The consortium of Northrop-Grumman Corp. and France’s EADS, which is bidding for the new U.S. Air Force refueling tanker contract, sounds like the youngster on the baseball playground who couldn’t get his way so he took his ball and bat and went home.
Members of the Kansas congressional delegation contend the Pentagon should not revise the bidding process despite demands from Northrop Grumman and its business partner. Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Todd Tiahrt of Kansas are leading the charge to prevent changes.
The Northrop group wants the bidding requirements to be changed and is saying it may choose not to bid if changes aren’t made. All well and good. We would be better off if the Boeing Co. with its ties to Kansas gets the contract. At stake is a $35 billion deal, and Boeing’s Kansas facilities are in line to perform some of the work if Boeing prevails. The state needs the jobs, and it is good that Brownback and Tiahrt are trying to get them.
The bidding process was changed once when it was revealed that the Air Force had used improper procedures that seemed to steer the contract to the Northrop group. So the door was reopened with Boeing again strongly in the mix. Now the other bidders say the Department of Defense specifications favor Boeing.
The Kansas congressmen say the competition for the huge contract has been fair after earlier changes and that new alterations would further delay the building of the needed tankers. There are benefits to having competitive bids on the tankers, but there also are benefits to having this essential military aircraft manufactured in the United States.
If Northrop-Grumman and EADS want to pull out of the bidding as a protest over the process, fine. Boeing and Kansas can use the business and the sooner it can be steered our way, the better.