France “protectionist,” says Boeing

We wonder what took Boeing so long to make this obvious point: France is protectionist in its defense purchases and should quit complaining about the KC-X competition in the US. See this Reuters story.

We agree, and have thought this to be one of the most salient political points that Boeing could make (though it has nothing to do with the technical merits of the competition). We’ve never been fans of the WTO argument, since we are firmly convinced Boeing will be found in violation of the rules just as Airbus has. We’ve never bought into the jobs argument, since Northrop Grumman claims its KC-30 will create 48,000 jobs and Boeing claims 44,000 (and we don’t believe either figure). We thought Boeing had a valid, if over-stated, point on the risk-factor of the Mobile (AL) plant proposed by Airbus where the KC-30 would be assembled–but Boeing pretty well shot down its own argument by selected Charleston (SC) for 787 Line 2.

But the fairness argument of access to France’s defense procurement: now this is the best political argument that Boeing can use. France has already made it clear it will select the KC-30 and not consider the Boeing KC-767. This is where Boeing and its supporters can effectively, and fairly, argue for a sole-source selection.

12 Comments on “France “protectionist,” says Boeing

  1. For sidetracking of the issue one would need numbers in french foreign defense procurement.
    Value, country of origin.

    Returning to the fairness argument:
    EADS was invited to bid as a measure to shore
    up an overreaching supplier.
    But even in that new situation the overreaching supplier found no reason to compete on product
    quality and capability, lost the competition
    but further ran up the already running lobbying machinery to full speed plus that little something.

    Seemingly a successfull endeavour.

    If the US government succumbs to this they will
    never ever be taken serious again by Boeing
    and other defense contractors will take note too.

    The fairness lies in stating your preferences up front.
    The french seem to be rather open about it while
    the US wrote something completely different in the RFP.

  2. I agree with your argument and would go further and say ANY customer can choose whatever plane they want.

    I would say respectfully – I’m not a US citizen – that a “competition” with just one contender doesn’t make any sense.

    Based on your earlier reports, the Air Force seemed to be happy with the competitive pricing they got the last time, as well as the chosen plane.

  3. Scott:

    Speaking of fairness, could you please remind me which military contracts were offered to foreign suppliers (beside KC-X, which was a gross joke!)?
    Last time I checked, here is what I found in the French military inventory:
    E-3F (Boeing)
    C-135F (Boeing)
    C-130 (Lockheed)
    E-2 (Northrop)

    Should I go back in time and remind you of all the US-built aircraft the French Air Force and Navy used in the past (F-8, DC-8, DC-3, B-25, etc…)?

    Would you also, as a measure of US universal fairness, remind what French military equipment is (and has been) in the US military arsenal?

    I’ll take a silence as a “zero”.

    I forgot the US motto was “lie, it will eventually stick”.

    Also, and while I’m at it, notice that Mr. Galland does NOT complain about France not buying any American aircraft, he is complaining about France not buying any BOEING aircraft!

  4. The underlying issue is not French protectionism, but one of competency in the USAF to adequately assess and state their requirements, and then conduct a fair an open competition. As it may pertain to the KC-X, this program is likely the Gold Medalist for the most incompetent procurement in the annals of modern procurement history. Quite obviously from the outset, the USAF wanted to buy Boeing, and ONLY Boeing, and they would do so at any price… When Sen. McCain had the temerity to take on the issue politically, and force the USAF into sounding retreat, after wasting tens of millions of taxpayers money, the USAF acquiesced. We would be well advised to unburden the USAF from politics, and force them to conduct a true assessment of their mission requirements, and then state them in an open, fair requirements document and structure a realistic procurement to fulfill those needs. French protectionism has nothing to do with this process. As far as protectionism, it seems to me that Boeing has a lock on the US government, and perhaps this is due to their position as the single largest (dollar volume) exporter in the country, which gives them considerable clout on the hill.

    As far as WTO issues, those are non issues. Clearly Boeing benefits from a multitude of “subsidies” which the US government would prefer not to consider or have anyone else consider. Just look at the “subsidies” that Boeing is receiving from South Carolina… But, then those account for nothing.

    In any procurement, competition is critical to the process, and most critical to the government and warfighters getting the best value. Under the current USAF thinking I think that NG/EADS would be idiots to think they could possibly win. The USAF has done an admirable job of once again stacking the deck… So much for integrity playing any part in this process.

    • Is the Airforce really the primary force in this?
      The initial leasing contract was inserted by Boeing via
      bribed personel.
      In the following open competition EADS was able
      to convince the Airforce that a more versatile product
      would match their needs in a better way ( and win it )
      One advantage being that a multi role craft does not
      have to rot on the ground through low utilisation
      but can accumulate enough flying hours in alternate
      usage to avoid having century old frames that by
      usage levels are “just broken in” but antiques in every
      other aspect.
      Boeing answered this with letting its lawysers off the leash
      and at least in US courts with a set of wordy laywers and
      some political clout anything can be proven “nonconforming”.

      Imho the primary perpetrator here is Boeing. ( and a political
      system that has been deeply subverted. Eisenhower was
      qute right. )

      • I agree, except, “multi role craft does not have to rot on the ground through low utilisation.”

        The winning aircraft should meet more of the requirements than the competitor, the requirements are what counts. The USAF should decide if it needs “multi role” or not, and if this fits their aircraft use methodology.

        It may be easier for smaller and newer tanker operators to utilize “multi role craft,” but when the projected maximum re-fueling ops requires a large dedicated fleet, carrying cargo cannot be allowed to interfere, especially in war time. Transports carry cargo, not tankers.

        Conversely, if the USAF issues a C-130 replacement RFP, should “multi-role” be part of their requirements? Should it also be a tanker, so it, “does not have to rot on the ground through low utilisation” as a transport? Again, a tanker role cannot interfere with the projected maximum number of transport ops, especially in times of multi-theater conflict.

  5. besides the Rand AoA from way back, Has the AF done any soul searching as to what they actually look for in a future tanker/transport.

  6. ikkeman, the men in blue clearly stated last time that they wanted the A330. “More, more, and more…” was all they could say.

    The contract was canceled over 8 minor procedural errors, not over the merits of the aircraft.

    • 8 “minor procedural errors”? Nice propaganda there…The only people calling them that were NG/Airbus.

      “Among the errors cited in the GAO report, Air Force officials did not follow the criteria they had established for the program’s competition, nor did they “conduct discussions in a fair and equal matter.” In addition, the Air Force “misled” Boeing about whether its aircraft met one of the key objectives for the program, the report states.”

      Key Findings:

      The GAO said the tanker contract decision was flawed because the Air Force:

      * Used criteria other than those stipulated to assess the relative merits of the two contending airplanes.

      * Erroneously concluded that Northrop offered lower total program costs, when Boeing’s cost was lower.

      * Improperly gave the larger Northrop plane extra credit for exceeding certain performance parameters.

      * Failed to prove that the Northrop plane could refuel all the Air Force aircraft it needs to service.

      * Conducted “misleading and unequal discussions” by providing Northrop with more information than Boeing.

      * Gave Northrop an improper break by dismissing its failure to sign a required aircraft-maintenance plan as just “an administrative oversight.”

      * Inappropriately rejected Boeing’s estimate of its engineering costs and made “unreasonable” increases in that estimate.

      Read it.

  7. To: 123xyz on January 21, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Multi-Role is not Multi-Path ( see 5th Element 😉

    The KC136 seem to have between 7,000 .. 12,000
    flying hours on average accumulated in ~40++ years ( well, that is what I have seen mentioned).
    Modern frames target 60,000h, and for the A320 family Airbus is busy extending a lifeline to a final
    target of 180,000h.
    Do you envision having a type in inventory for ~240 years? Will requirements stay the same for that duration?
    Are they even today the same as in 1960?

    NG/EADS was able to make a convincing case for a
    more versatile and capable craft. ( And the Boeing offering isn’t really single purpose either, but offering less usage value for a similar amount of money.

  8. France just awarded a $324M contract to Boeing for mid-life modernization of the French Air Force AWACS.

    Somebody explains to me how they can modernize aircraft that, according to Boeing, they have never bought!

    Now, THAT would be a subsidy!

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