FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Boeing’s Sweet Deal

Boeing may have lost out to Lockheed in it’s bid to build the Joint Strike Fighter, one of the most lucrative contracts in Pentagon history, but no one should mourn for the defense giant. The Pentagon needs a plump Boeing as much as Boeing needs Pentagon largesse. In this spirit, it’s no surprise that Congress is poised to quietly hand Boeing a big consolation prize in the form two unprecedented contracts that will give the company, which has recently fled Seattle for Chicago, a bailout that will total more than $10 billion.

One would allow the purchase of 60 Boeing C-17 cargo aircraft under a special “commercial” provision that shields the deal from any financial oversight, long dream of both Pentagon acquisition hawks and defense contractors. The other contract calls for the Pentagon to lease at least100 Boeing 767 tankers at a cost that is nearly $7 billion more than if the aircraft were purchased outright. These are the kinds of contracts that created front-page scandals during the 1980s. But these days the press, in full war mode, barely bats an eyelash over.

This C-17 commercial proposal would allow the Air Force to bypass important pricing oversight that is only intended to be lifted for items which are truly commercial and therefore regulated by “forces of the free market”. A $200 million outsized military cargo carrier with 173,300-pound capacity is scarcely an item where the price tag is determined by bracing forces of competition.

Originally, the senate frowned upon this extraordinary deal and failed to include the provision in its Defense Authorization Act, despite a desperate lobbying effort from Boeing. Then the Pentagon sprang into action. In an October 26, 2001 letter sent to Armed Services Committee Chairman Senator Carl Levin, Pentagon acquisitions chief E.C. “Pete” Aldridge urged that the language be reinserted to “provide sufficient flexibility” for the Department of Defense. By the way, October 26 is the same day that the Pentagon announced its decision to award the $200 billion Joint Strike Fighter contract to Lockheed/Martin.

So far Senator Levin has refused to bow to the tag team efforts of the Pentagon and Boeing. But Levin is getting heat from all sides, including inside his own party, to capitulate. Senator Patty Murray, the Democrat from Washington state, is one of those carrying Boeing’s water on the Hill, even though the company abandoned her state earlier this year, laying off 90,000 employees. “We could lose our ability to build airplanes in this country if Boeing’s production plants are kept rolling,” Murray said.

Over on the House side, Boeing’s interests are being zealously advanced by Rep. Norm Dicks, another Washington Democrat. “I’ve never seen Boeing as interested in anything as this deal,” Dicks said.

The plan to lease 100 converted Boeing 767 air refueling aircraft for a period of 10 years has all the hallmarks of an even bigger boondoggle. The Office of Management and Budget estimates that the lease plan would cost $22 billion, while purchasing the aircraft outright would cost just over $15 billion.

But it doesn’t stop there. In the perverse logic of defense contracts, the more complications the better. The B-767 plan also requires an additional handout from taxpayers, as modifications to existing hangers would be necessary to house B-767s and would cost an estimated $600 million.

Why in the world would Congress go along with such blatant pork barrel? Leave it to Boeing’s PR whizzes to come up with a unique sales pitch. Boeing has airlifted its top executives to DC last week in a feverish lobbying blitz. There the men from Boeing told key congressional that the deal was needed to get the ailing airline industry back on its feet by the “creating a multibillion military market for the company’s popular civilian aircraft including the 767.”

“These two handouts are being characterized as good business practices when in fact the U.S. taxpayers are paying more to get less,” said Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project On Government Oversight, the defense watchdog group.

CP

More articles by:

Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Bernie and the Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution. He can be reached at: sitka@comcast.net or on Twitter  @JSCCounterPunch

Weekend Edition
November 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jonah Raskin
A California Jew in a Time of Anti-Semitism
Andrew Levine
Whither the Melting Pot?
Joshua Frank
Climate Change and Wildfires: The New Western Travesty
Nick Pemberton
The Revolution’s Here, Please Excuse Me While I Laugh
T.J. Coles
Israel Cannot Use Violent Self-Defense While Occupying Gaza
Rob Urie
Nuclear Weapons are a Nightmare Made in America
Paul Street
Barack von Obamenburg, Herr Donald, and Big Capitalist Hypocrisy: On How Fascism Happens
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fire is Sweeping Our Very Streets Today
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s New President, Other European Fools and the Abyss 
Pete Dolack
“Winners” in Amazon Sweepstakes Sure to be the Losers
Richard Eskow
Amazon, Go Home! Billions for Working People, But Not One Cent For Tribute
Ramzy Baroud
In Breach of Human Rights, Netanyahu Supports the Death Penalty against Palestinians
Brian Terrell
Ending the War in Yemen- Congressional Resolution is Not Enough!
John Laforge
Woolsey Fire Burns Toxic Santa Susana Reactor Site
Ralph Nader
The War Over Words: Republicans Easily Defeat the Democrats
M. G. Piety
Reading Plato in the Time of the Oligarchs
Rafael Correa
Ecuador’s Soft Coup and Political Persecution
Brian Cloughley
Aid Projects Can Work, But Not “Head-Smacking Stupid Ones”
David Swanson
A Tale of Two Marines
Robert Fantina
Democrats and the Mid-Term Elections
Joseph Flatley
The Fascist Creep: How Conspiracy Theories and an Unhinged President Created an Anti-Semitic Terrorist
Joseph Natoli
Twitter: Fast Track to the Id
William Hawes
Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds
Bob Wing
Toward Racial Justice and a Third Reconstruction
Ron Jacobs
Hunter S. Thompson: Chronicling the Republic’s Fall
Oscar Gonzalez
Stan Lee and a Barrio Kid
Jack Rasmus
Election 2018 and the Unraveling of America
Sam Pizzigati
The Democrats Won Big, But Will They Go Bold?
Yves Engler
Canada and Saudi Arabia: Friends or Enemies?
Cesar Chelala
Can El Paso be a Model for Healing?
Mike Ferner
The Tragically Misnamed Paris Peace Conference
Barry Lando
Trump’s Enablers: Appalling Parallels
Ariel Dorfman
The Boy Who Taught Me About War and Peace
Binoy Kampmark
The Disgruntled Former Prime Minister
Faisal Khan
Is Dubai Really a Destination of Choice?
Arnold August
The Importance of Néstor García Iturbe, Cuban Intellectual
James Munson
An Indecisive War To End All Wars, I Mean the Midterm Elections
Nyla Ali Khan
Women as Repositories of Communal Values and Cultural Traditions
Dan Bacher
Judge Orders Moratorium on Offshore Fracking in Federal Waters off California
Christopher Brauchli
When Depravity Wins
Robby Sherwin
Here’s an Idea
Susan Block
Cucks, Cuckolding and Campaign Management
Louis Proyect
The Mafia and the Class Struggle (Part Two)
David Yearsley
Smoke on the Water: Jazz in San Francisco
Elliot Sperber
All of Those Bezos
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail