Murtha Yields on Tanker Buy

Murtha Yields on Tanker Buy

Rep. Jack Murtha had insisted that his plan to divide the tanker buy between Boeing and Northrop Grumman would not only ensure the contract was not challenged but would actually save the country billions of dollars.

We all make mistakes and Murtha seems to have realized that he may have made one in this case. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the folks in the acquisition shop kept insisting that a split or dual buy would cost the country billions it can ill afford right now. Murtha had gone from supporting a split buy would ensure the country got capability to a split buy would actually save the country billions.

Murtha’s spokesman wouldn’t say much when I asked him why the powerful appropriator backed off the plan. “Chairman Murtha remains committed to working out a plan that gets tankers in the air faster. The Committee will address this issue in the coming months within the FY10 bill,” he said in an email. He added that Murtha would offer more details on Monday to House Appropriation Committee members.

This reversal may well be a symptom of Murtha’s declining influence in the light of what appear to be increasingly worrying legal problems faced by close supporters of his, including former Murtha staffer Paul Magliocchetti, who founded the former PMA Group. The company shut its doors at the end of March after the FBI raided its offices.

Yesterday the pressure grew a bit more as four good government groups, Democratic Democracy 21, Common Cause, Public Citizen and U.S. PIRG, called on the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to probe the relationship PMA had with Democratic Reps. John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania, Peter J. Visclosky of Indiana and James P. Moran of Virginia. The lawmakers secured lucrative earmarks for defense contractors represented by The PMA Group and received political donations from family members of the lobbying firm’s founder.

One crucial thing to figure out in the next few days: did Gates win or did Murtha lose. If it’s a Gates win, that would mark one big notch in the defense secretary’s congressional cannon. Some evidence that industry feels Gates is the ascendancy: Lockheed Martin’s declaration that it would not fight to the death to keep building F-22s. With the budget likely to come out at the end of next week or early the next week Congress will get the crucial numbers it needs to start analyzing Gates’ decisions and something they can use to argue their own case.

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WSJ is reporting that the White House got Pelosi to lean on Murtha.

Good, it was a stupid idea.

So if it comes down to one plane or the other, will the Obama administration compete this, or will it sole source? After all, another competition risks protests, delays, and more acrimony. The unionized workforce at Boeing would stand to lose big time if the airbus plane is selected. I noted on another thread that we can’t afford to turn Everett, WA, into Flint, MI, with thousands of laid off workers. As I recall, WA state went for Obama; AL went for who?

A sole source to Boeing for a hundred planes or so, would get the USAF their planes, and pay off a political debt to the unions. DOD could always justify it as a “temporary” measure and float another competition (KC-Y?).

Either the KC-767 or the KC-30 will “tank”. The latter carries a few more pallets, but will cost more in the long run, even if infrastructure costs are excluded. However, I expect the politics to be the prime mover here.


Gates and Young have argued that if they do the job they should do in drawing up the new range of requirements and in issuing the RFI and contract then they will avoid a protest. Young said last week what he has said for months: few protests are lost by the government and they should not lose this one if they do their jobs well. Given how virulent the reaction was when Boeing lost — and the fear among NG supporters that they won’t get a fair shake this time — I think NG will find it very difficult to avoid filing a protest should they lose. BTW, I’m not predicting they will lose or that Boeing will win… at least, not yet.

Oh please. There is no need to draw up a new range of requirements or issue a new RFI. The requirements wasn’t the problem with the last competition it was that the KC-X Source Seletcion Team failed to assess the relative merits of the proposals in accordance with the evaluation criteria identified in the solicitation (and this after the criteria had been altered to accomodate the previously rejected A330-based tanker).

Not unless the decision is to hold off on the KC-135 replacement KC-X & go 1st to the KC-10 replacement KC-Y 1st…

The schedule goes:
KC-X replaces KC-135E
KC-Y replaces KC-135R
KC-Z replaces KC-10A

With Pelosi involved we are all doomed. Hope she realizes that NG is headquartered in her home state of CA and does not let Boeing and Norm Dicks run wild, the Airbus NG plane is much better…



The schedule goes:
KC-X replaces KC-135E & some KC-135R [procurement 2012–24]
KC-Y replaces KC-10A [program 2020–2024 with procurement 2024–36]
KC-Z replaces remaining KC-135R [program 2027–2036 with procurement 2036–2048]

Ok just so you guys know. Some of my guys have met with both the NG and BA tanker teams regarding installation of enhanced ISR capabilities aboard their respective tankers. Here is what I heard. Our guys went to NG folks and they had a very specific platform with very specific technical capabilities that we could sync up with. They even had the hardware set-up’s on pallets for us to test our gear on and showed us on the actual airframe how our hardware, their hardware, and the airfram will all mate.

The BA guys were another story. They had designs and parameters on paper and computer simulations of how our hardware would work with theirs and some high-iteration simulation of its effectiveness on how they would mate. There were no actual airframes for us to work with. They had some computer setups that we could hook our hardware to and it would further simulate how their hardware would work with ours. When asked why we didn’t have any real material to test our equipment on, we were told that they weren’t sure which tanker they would need to build and therefore didn’t want to jump the gun and set up something that we would build our equipment for only to have that change. They thought they were doing us a favor.

Summary: I think BA is sunk on this one. They may have some novel products coming out in other areas but as far as we can tell NG is way ahead on this one. Good luck you BA guys.

LockMartSkunk: Well, the sad fact is that given the way DoD procurement has gone for the last ten years, BA had the right idea! There’s no point in building a bunch of actual hardware when the customer’s attitude is “every requirement can be changed as much as we want and we don’t care how hard it is to change just ‘Git-R-Dun’!”

Fellas, let’s face the facts. NG/EADS are simply offering their Australian tanker, with minor tweaks per USAF RFP. That’s why their development costs are cheap. Their plane is cheap because a subsidised Airbus is giving it away to get into American defense’s deep pockets. Subsised?…you say. Yes, their development of that jet was essentially “free” and they pay no benefits as BA does. So, with USAF licking their wounds and their bruised egos and careers…who they gonna pick next time and announce to the world? You think they’re inclined to pick BA and say “we got it wrong the first time!”?? BA has an uphill battle with a customer that won’t talk and requirements that have evolved towards only a “bigger is better” win…as the GAO discovered. This whole thing remains a mess and Gates isn’t helping with his “mum’s the word” attitude. So much for giving the home team a break. Get ready to ship crates of American dollars to France.


Just a quick correction. The USAF got it right the 1st time when they selected the KC-767 (to be further developed by Boeing & the USAF into a full spec/capability platform for later procurement contracts) for the tanker lease in order to ‘jump start’ the recapitalzation proces & get rid of the overly expensive to operate & maintain KC-135Es (obtianing new tankers 6 years earlier than what would take for straight procurement a full spec/capability platform & not having to spend a dime of USAF procurement fund to do so). The KC-X Source Selection Team (not the USAF) even with greater than usual oversight by the DOD (sorry Gates/Young are NOT innocent bystanders in this) got it wrong the ‘2nd time’ by pandering WAY too much to political pressure & ignoring the advice of those who actually know about US tanker operations (the AMC generals & tankers crews).

pfcem, you hit the nail on the head. And who is the one guy that stands on a soap box and proudly brags about halting the “evil” lease program? That’s right…McCain. A Dudley DoRight wannabe. So few people know that his campaign staff was riddled with EADS lobbyists. He claims the moral high ground and talks about killing this “corupt” deal while hiding his French loving staff. What a sham. He did everything he could to pander to EADS and their American frontman NG. If the USAF had simply executed the lease/buy deal and embarked on a rational spiral technology upgrade process they would be flying their new tankers today and growing their capability as technology and affordability allow. Win-win. But no, not to be. Instead we’re treated to this nightmarish tennis match between the only two aerospace giants, and a slanted referee that ignores fouls…until a protest. NG continues to use “KC-45″ although that was canceled a year ago. Their jet is larger than a KC-10 by a longshot, but carries over 100,000 pounds less gas. You have to park them with C-5s and we’re gonna replace a KC-135 with that behemoth?! Are you kidding me? They don’t fit in the garage, and as the Air Force themselves said back in the lease days before Dudley killed it…the Airbus tanker does not bring commensurate value to the mission to go along with it’s (much) larger size. And as to it being an American tanker because NG puts their sticker on it…how is that so when it’s basically an Australian tanker, which NG had nothing to do with? ’nuff said.

I remain convinced that the White House will have the final say on who builds this tanker, not Gates. As I stated above, I simply can’t see the Obamaites opting to lay off workers in Everett to grown jobs in (red state) Alabama and Toulouse. That would be indefensible to the unions who supported Obama all the way. At the end of the day it will come down to this and not pallets, litters, pumping rates, or even cost. Where will the maximum political benefit be derived–Airbus or Boeing?

They could throw some work Alabama’s way, but I seriously doubt they will give them the whole program, regardless of how many retired Air Force generals get appointed to the board of EADS North America.

pfcem: It’s extremely amusing that you claim that NG’s selection was the result of “pandering to political pressure”, given what happened *after* that selection.


What happened *after* that selection?

Perhaps you are referring to the non-political GOA ruling exposing the selection for being anything but fair &/or transparent…

ya im sure that tanker lease program boeing had was pretty fair and transparent.…..?

john, I followed that pretty closely and walked away thinking that absolutely NOTHING I read in the media is accurate in any way. For example, the lease deal evolved into a lease/buy long after Druyan left her ACQ office…yet Dudley McCain had everyone believe there was a seedy and unethical connection between her and the tanker lease contract. Druyan’s dust had long settled before the lease deal was inked and approved…but Dudley and the media would have you believe it was all a vast conspiracy. Those two Boeing executives, Sears & Druyan, were simply idiots, trying to cover up hiring her 2 weeks before she recused herself. Good on Boeing for canning them, but no connection to the lease deal. During lease days, USAF talked freely with BA & EADS to understand technology readiness and capability maturity versus their requirements. Now in KC-X days, not a peep. Which would YOU say is more open and transparent??

pfcem: Actually, I’m talking about Senators accusing major defense contractors of being “anti-American”. I’m talking about Boeing taking out full-page ads in major newspapers claiming that the USAF and DoD were staffed by incompetents. I’m talking about the claim that an airplane assembled in Atlanta, using American engines and avionics, is “foreign”. I’m talking about the bitter irony that a more-desirable, more-capable entrant was successfully protested because its superior performance wasn’t a requirement!

Reuters has an article out today in which “the U.S. Air Force is exploring ways to shore up a declining U.S. space industrial base”.
Is this going to extend to the entire (U.S.) AERO-space industrial base? In other words, will the concern extend to tankers as well as satellites?

You seem to have a few things misunderstood there. The A330 for the tanker will be built in the same factories in Europe that build the current commercial A330s. The final assembly, which is a pretty small part of the whole process, has been proposed for MOBILE, AL (not Atlanta, GA). The vast majority of the work on the A330 will still be done in the EU, but the same French, Germans, Brits, and Spaniards that build the A330s today. So, yes, it IS a “foreign” airplane.

You also seem to equate pure size to “more capable”. The problem is the RFP did NOT make that equivalency. In fact, it specifically disconnected the two. That was one of the successful protest points.

The bottom line is that if the AF wants a KC-135 replacement, they should say so. IF they really want a KC-10 replacement they should say so. The last go around was fatally flawed, as the GAO found.

Howard: “Final Assembly” is a “pretty small part” of the process? Tell that to Boeing, who have pared their operations back to exactly that “pretty small part”.

“The bottom line is that if the AF wants a KC-135 replacement, they should say so.”

Oddly enough, that’s what they DID say. NG offered more than they asked for, and for a price that was acceptable. Unfortunately, the GAO decided that it knew more about aerial refueling operations than the United States Air Force.

If KC-767 were an undebateably superior aircraft, then Boeing shouldn’t have had any trouble with the proposal. Hell, they should’ve had actual flying units ready to demo to the customer! This should have been the very definition of “turnkey procurement”. This was Boeing’s proposal to lose, and they lost it.


What Senators accused major defense contractors of being “anti-American”?

The GAO confirmed that KC-X Source Selection Team was staffed by incompetents.

The KC-30 IS “foreign”. It is designed & manufactured in Europe. Yes the engines are American. Does that make any aircraft with American engines an American aircraft?

The KC-30 ISN’T more-desirable OR more-capable. The USAF/DOD rejected it, then Congress in its infinate wisdom forced the USAF/DOD to conduct another competition when it was discovered that in the USAF/DOD’s haste to get the tanker it wanted (the KC-767) that it skipped required steps in the acquisition process & EADS used the fact that there HAD to be another competition to force the USAF/DOD to alter its criteria. Then even with the altered criteria the KC-X Source Selection Team failed to assess the relative merits of the proposals in accordance with the evaluation criteria identified in the solicitation…

Reality HAD to be altered in the CMARPS model just so that the KC-30 COULD complete some scenarios in order for it to even achieve a score.


Boeing offered more than they asked for (meet or exceeded ALL key requirements — the KC-X Sources Selection Team failed to justify how it concluded that the KC-30 did) & even the KC-X Sources Selection Team (using its flawed cost evaluation) admitted (coincidentally just days befre the GAO ruling) that the Boeing off was in fact the less expensive.

The GAO didn’t decide that it knew more about aerial refueling operations than the USAF. It did its job & found that the KC-X Sources Selection Team (not the USAF) was incompotent & unfair in its selection. A lot of people who DON’T know jack about aerial refueling operations than the USAF pressured the USAF/DOD to ‘accept’ a platform which it had already rejected for not meeting its requirements.

The only “trouble” Boeing had with the proposal was with the incompetence & unfairness of the KC-X Sources Selection Team. If not for that Boeing wouldn’t have lost it.

Rep. Jack Murtha is a classic example of why term limits are desperately needed. Someday history will show he has his pockets lined by special interest groups and is in no way thinking what is best for the USAF customer. He is interested in ONLY his interests and nothing more. He should not be allowed to voice any opinion on this valuable program of which he knows little to nothing. With Mr. Gates as Sec of Def, the USAF will be lucky to get a 50’ hose and a 55 gal drum to call a tanker. Murtha has nothing to worry about, the deck is stacked already and Gates has put the fear of being fired into anyone who knows anything and could speak accordingly.

Agree with everything you just posted K.I.S.

The fact of the matter is that NG has the better plane at the better price. They have two planes built and the boom has been tested over 250 times without failure. The corrupt SOB’s at Boeing need to stop acting like little girls and put on their big boy pants. They lost and then proceeded to cost the US taxpayers millions of dollars with their bogus misuse of the appeals process. This will actually benefit US companies by opening up European markets. They have always looked on the US as protectionists and short sited.

The single biggest reason to be wary of Boeing is that it has badly screwed up almost all sizable programs it has taken on for the government (and some commerrcial ones in the last five years. Cost over-runs, delays, shortfalls in delivered functionality vs. the spec. We may trust their commercial airplanes, but not their border fences, satellites, Army ground vehicle programs, etc. They have lost the knacks of integration, managing subs, and being straight with the customer. No one wants to see Americans lose jobs, and the good news is NG/EADS will have about the same number of jobs in America as Boeing would on this program. We need a competition, badly, but the smart money is not on Boeing. Its economics and its shareholders won’t let Boeing give the planes away. They certainly can’t win on quality.

KIS, Smurffa lining his pockets with special interest money? No, can’t be.

“The newly renamed John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, is a testament to Murtha’s ability to tap streams of federal money for pricey, state-of-the-art projects that are rare among regional airports of comparable size. Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) is credited with securing at least $150 million for the airport. It was among the first in the country to win funding from this year’s stimulus package: $800,000 to repave a backup runway. ”


First off all don’t be fooled by it being called a NG plane. It isn’t. It is designed & manufactured by Airbus/EADS in Europe. NG’s workshare is 3 times more requirements than the KC-30 was found to be superior to the KC-767AT & the KC-767AT’s superiority tended to be in the HIGHER priority requirements while the KC-30’s superiority tended to be in the LOWER priority requirements.

Sorry Boeing ‘lost’ because of the incompetence/unfairness of the KC-X Source Selection Team. Not only did the GAO sustain the protest it was THE strongest worded ruling most anyone can remember.


Jawaralal Bernstein,


Well, you can’t say these comments aren’t spirited! Here’s some interesting questions to ask yourselves OBX/JB/DD:
1. If the “NG” tanker is more ready, then how come it has never transferred fuel with its boom on the Ausie KC-30? Only with the test boom on the A310 demonstrator. Why? you may ask…that’s what the world wants to know. I’ll bet it has a lot to do with their backhoe hydraulic drive design. You can’t do dental surgery at the end of a backhoe.
2. If the “NG” tanker is truly American, then why is a fully designed and built Airbus KC-330 tanker in flight test with absolutely no input from NG? Are you drinking that French kool-aid? They will take the fully designed French tanker in kit form, float it to Alabama, and if the EVER build the plant, bolt it together like a tinker toy with American workers. Now you compare that to a full assembly line in Washington state and say they are the same?! The bottom line is that the Intellectual Property (those are the nice, high paying industrial base type jobs) has been developed in Europe and will stay there. The jobs we want to keep vital in the good old USA are not only assembly workers and engine makers, but Engineers and Scientists that invent this stuff.
3. If Boeing is the bigger “screw up” here, please explaing the A400M debacle to me. Airbus would like a solution too, so cc them. You could not name one large integrator/manufacturer that sells to the DoD that does not have current and past issues. You seem to want to harp on Boeing, so do some research. That C-17 Gates wants to kill started out so rough they were gonna canx it…but Boeing teamed with their customer and it has become the poster child for Aif Force programs…and by the way, Druyan drove that success story, ironically. You think NG is clean? Look at their ship building programs.
4. Finally, You demonize Boeing and call them corupt SOBs and idiots because they protested? For the record, that’s the FIRST time they have (unlike every one of their competitors), and the GAO agreed with them on a record number of counts…not one little LCC issue, a full gambit of issues. In addition, they found NG/EADS “unawardable” on two counts because they refused to agree to helping the USAF stand up organic maintenance in two years and their A330 jet cannot go fast enough to fly tactical maneuvers per existing doctrine. So who saved the warfighter here? It wasn’t NG/EADS and it wasn’t the USAF themselves. And, as noted above, NG couldn’t even get a “score” on the mission effectiveness “IFARA” factor 5 of the RFP until they whined and said they were gonna take their ball and go home unless the USAF changed the RFP. The USAF did and low and behold the larger tanker wins…even though it took double the bases, ramp space, and fuel to burn as the KC-135. As they say in computer modeling…garbage in, garbage out.
Nuff said.

“lucrative earmarks”. Murtha 0, Gates 0.

what a joke. Fair is a joke. corruption feeding corruption and it’s trying to put the fix in. Let’s hope these buffoons make their move soon rather than playing political hockey with our sons and daughter’s lives.

Boeing lost nothing in this because while the AF and DOD wait to submit another competitive acquisition Boeing is reaping the benefits of being the supplier of the KC-135.

This decision was nothing more than politcal. There is a reason the AF acquisition team sat before a House subcommittee prior to Boeing requesting a debriefing. The main culprits were representatives from Washington, Kansas, Illinois, and Conneticut. The 4 states that would lose the most if Boeing did not protest the AF award to NG/EADS.


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