AUGUST 27, 2003 - For the meager
price of just $20 billion of your money - billions, not millions - our
U.S. Air Force is going to lease - not buy - refueling planes from a
company that has been banned from selling to the government due to
ethical breaches in previous dealings.
It gets better. There is no need to to
lease these planes at all.
What is going on, you ask?
What we are talking about here is 100 Boeing
767's that the Air Force is set to lease from Boeing Corporation,
replacing the current fleet of KC-135E tankers. According to CNN,
"The Office of Management and Budget reports the current fleet is in
good shape, and the Air Force says there is no need to start replacing
the KC-135Es before 2012."
So why, you might ask, are we about to spend
over $20 billion dollars to lease - not even buy, but just lease - 100
unnecessary tanker aircraft from Boeing? Why, you might wonder
even more, would we lease them when we could buy them for $6 billion
dollars less? Never mind that we don't need them right now in the
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) wants to know as
well. According to the Business Journal of Phoenix, McCain
released a statement in May that said, "In all my years in Congress, I
have never seen the security and fiduciary responsibilities of the
federal government quite so nakedly subordinated to the interests of one
What is happening is that House Speaker
Dennis Hastert (R-IL) is from Illinois. Boeing recently moved its
headquarters from Washington state to Illinois. Part of what
brought them there was having Hastert as their man to bring in special
There's even more.
Boeing has been suspended from selling to
the government due to unethical practices, including obtaining
competitor information illegally. According to the Washington
Post, "An Air Force Investigation found that Boeing had violated federal
rules during the $1.8 billion competition." The company has been
suspended from winning government contracts indefinitely, though,
according to the Post article, the suspension will likely last only 60
to 90 days - still, "by far the longest sanction for a major defense
contractor, industry officials said."
There is an explanation for all of this,
which is quite a bit more unsettling. In a conversation with a
Boeing employee this past week, the depth of the problem was explained
"All of the defense companies - you remember
how many there used to be," said the Boeing employee, who insisted on
remaining anonymous, "Lockheed, Martin, Boeing, McDonnell, Douglas,
Northrop - well now, there's really only two. They have all merged
- two companies have bought up all of the others."
"So now, when it comes time for a bidding
process, there are only two companies doing the bidding. But even
worse, now that we have been suspended from bidding, there is only one
company that can bid on projects - no competition at all."
So even though Boeing has committed an
illegal act that has gotten it suspended from obtaining government
contracts, people in the government, including President Bush, who is
set to sign the deal despite McCain's protestations, is about to get
billions and billions of your money. And the best part, according
to the employee, is that the arrangement works around the suspension -
Boeing can't bid on selling to the government, but it sure can lease.
President Bush doesn't believe in spending
on programs that support people in need, but throwing unnecessary
billions to a company in need - that is just fine. And the lie is
that it is to save a few thousand layoffs.
Do the math. You could hand each of
the approximately 5,000 employees this might benefit $1 million dollars
each and still waste $1 billion less. And that's just the waste.
Instead of the whole unnecessary contract, you could just give each
employee $4 million.
But no. To the President giving even
basic assistance to people is wasteful. But giving the equivalent
of $4 million per job to Boeing, that he will approve.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says
about the contract, in a letter to Sen. McCain, "...a long-term lease of
tanker aircraft would be significantly more expensive than a direct
purchase of such aircraft."
According a a statement released by Sen.
McCain, that amount is approximately $6 billion more than buying the
aircraft outright. The CBO lists the number at approximately $8
Even when the usually rubber stamp Institute
for Defense Analyses reviewed the project, they concluded - well, they
refuse to release their conclusions, not to Sen. McCain, and not the
CNN. But, all they would say is that their appraisal, "was
negative," according to CNN.
Yet a couple of days ago, on August 22,
"House Speaker Dennis Hastert called the Boeing Co.'s 767 tanker program
a "good deal for the American government" and predicted it will receive
final approval from Congress," according to The Herald, a Washington
state paper that covers an area with Boeing plants that would benefit
greatly from the contract.
No, this is not Democrats vs. Republicans.
As we moderate independents know, this is amoral people against the rest
of us. According to the Herald article, "U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks
(D-Wash) (also has) vigorously defended the arrangement." It is
his congressional district that houses the Boeing plant that will
So once again we have to turn to Senator
McCain. Even better, we don't have to turn to him, he just does
the right thing for us.
Unfortunately, not enough other people do,
and the President will do his usual forgoing of morality and caring
about what is best for America and sign this billions-wasting nonsense
in a time of record deficits.
Boeing petitioned on August 25th to have
their bidding suspension lifted. It said in it's petition,
according to the Washington Post, that, "employees of its military
business underwent four hours of ethics training last month."
Apparently, they argue, this fixed everything.
The reality is that the suspension may be
lifted now, maybe in a few days, but it will happen in short order, and
whenever that happens, there will be a nice prize waiting at the end of
it all, and you will have flipped the bill.
Another CBO report was released yesterday.
The Washington Post reports today that this latest report says the lease
is $5.7 billion dollars more expensive than buying the planes outright.
And Keith Ashdown, Vice President of Policy and Communications for
Taxpayers for Common Sense, released a statement, which was excerpted in
the Post article, that said, "The CBO report says that the Air Force has
broken numerous federal budgetary and leasing rules to make this lease a
reality. . . . It violates 4 out of 6 principles of federal leasing."
How many hours of "ethics training" would it
take to turn Hastert, Dicks, Bush, and all the others approving this
bill into John McCain?