Boeing and the Southern strategy?

Steve Wilhelm of the Puget Sound Business Journal (Seattle) has a long story about Southern states “eyeing” Boeing in the wake of the IAM strike. Speculation has been rampant (in peaks and valleys) that Boeing might be fed up with its unions in heavily unionized Washington State and be looking South when it comes time to build its next airplane (or two).

One quote from the story that is filled with irony is:

“If I was a Boeing executive, I’d look at the state of Alabama and see there’s a qualified work force … I’d take a look at the assets we have,” said Stephen Nodine, president of the Mobile County Commission, whose offices are in Mobile, Ala.

Alabama, of course, is the proposed site for the Northrop Grumman/Airbus KC-30 tanker proposed in competition with Boeing’s KC-767, which will be assembled in the Seattle area if Boeing ultimately wins the contract. But what is more ironic is that Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems denigrated the skills of the Alabama workers during the tanker competition, suggesting they might have trouble building a tricycle if Northrop got the tanker contract. (It apparently mattered not that IDS has a large facility in Huntsville, AL.) Boeing’s Commercial unit cringed at the IDS statement because the Northrop/Airbus production model isn’t that different from BCA’s assembly model, including the high-profile 787 program (in which case IDS may have a point) but to a lesser degree with the 767 itself.

And speaking of tankers, Northrop didn’t even wait for the new Congress and the new president to take office before resuming the tanker wars with an advertisement that got the Pentagon’s chief purchaser up in arms (so to speak). Read about this one here and here.

We criticized Northrop for being slow off the PR and advertising mark in 2007, letting Boeing’s well-oiled machine set the agenda and frame the debate. (Once Northrop got running, it did make up for lost ground and scored some great PR/advertising hits.) But this advertisement, and more so it’s timing, strikes us as very premature. Nobody knows who the decision-makers in the Pentagon will be (and in any event, they shouldn’t be influenced by ads) and we doubt Members of Congress are paying much attention to the tanker debate right now anyway. With four million people expected for the inauguration of Barak Obama and the organization of the power structure in Congress, we suspect the Members of Congress might just be focused on something else right now.


One Comment on “Boeing and the Southern strategy?

  1. Rather than “getting in the first shot”, the Northrop Grumman ad smacks of desperation more than anything else. Politically, they will be in a bigger hole with the new Congress than they were with the current one, and that doesn’t take into account the change of Administration.

    Politically speaking, the USAF and DOD fumbled the ball on the tanker deal. Actually, that’s overly kind; they botched this procurement horribly. It wasn’t only the GSA findings, but the USAF should have been able to count…as in how many Chairman of what committees would not look favorably on a foreign produced airframe. The USAF displayed a degree of political ineptitude that was astonishing and they are (and likely will continue to) pay the price. No new tankers now, or for the foreseeable future. How can anyone doubt that had the USAF chosen the KC-767 there would be sufficient support now for funding the program by a majority of the members of the House and Senate?

    I would not be surprised to see the next tanker deal sole sourced to Boeing. Any competition would be too contentious and controversial. If the USAF wants a tanker, it better be “home grown”. They might even avoid all the issues that are cropping up on the 787 if they keep it here! 🙂

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