Pontifications: Alabama loses key committee slot in US Senate following election

By Scott Hamilton

Dec. 18, 2017, © Leeham Co.: The special US Senate election last week in Alabama drew world attention of the showdown between Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore.

Jones eked out a victory, becoming the first Democrat in 25 years to be elected to the Senate from Alabama.

I’m not going to get into all the issues, allegations and political implications of this race. Instead, a new item from Defense News caught my eye about the implications to the Alabama aerospace position in Congress.

Defense News’ headline is eye-catching: “Election leaves Alabama-shaped hole on Senate Armed Services Committee.”

Aerospace footprint in Alabama

Interests of about 300 aerospace Alabama companies supporting 12,500 job in commercial aviation, space and defense are involved.

Airbus, United Technologies, GKN, VT-MAE (ST Aerospace) and others have a commercial footprint in Mobile on the far south end of the state. Boeing Defense, Space and Security has a big facility in Huntsville in the north end of the state.

With the defeat of Moore, for the first time in 20 years, Alabama won’t be represented on the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Alabama’s economic engine is aerospace,” writes Defense News. Former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican, was on the Armed Services Committee until Donald Trump tapped him to be US Attorney General. Alabama’s Luther Strange, also a Republican, was appointed to Sessions’ vacant seat in the Senate and took his spot on Armed Services.

Jones, a Democrat, won’t be going onto Armed Service to replace the Republican Strange; the seat belongs to a Republican under the rules of the Senate.

Alabama’s other Senator, Richard Shelby, serves on the Appropriations Committee. He’d have to give up this seat or get a waiver of Senate rules to allow him to serve on both committees. According to Defense News, Shelby doesn’t plan to do either.

Southeast powerhouse

The US Southeast is becoming a powerhouse aviation center. It challenges Washington State and the commercial aviation cluster built up over 100 years to support Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Boeing, of course, chose to locate the second 787 production line in Charleston (SC), the first time it’s sited an airliner assembly line outside the Seattle area. Boeing threatened to locate the 737 MAX line outside Seattle, a threat not taken too seriously. It also threatened to locate the 777X wing production factory and assembly line outside Seattle, a threat it was prepared to carry out if labor didn’t grant concessions. The state also granted tax incentives.

The Southeast was a likely location for the MAX or the 777X. Boeing’s Huntsville (AL) site was one evaluated for the 777X. Mobile was a contender for the 787 site.

As I wrote in previous Pontifications, Mississippi is the site of NASA’s John Stennis Space Center, where testing of every space rocket has taken place. Aerospace companies are located in this state, Louisiana and Florida.

Suppliers conference

Leeham Co. and Airfinance Journal of the UK are staging a major event June 25-27 in Mobile, the Southeast Aerospace and Defense Conference (SADC). We’ll be talking about commercial aerospace, space, and development of the aerospace supply chain across the entire Southeast.

20 Comments on “Pontifications: Alabama loses key committee slot in US Senate following election

  1. Regarding – “Jones eked out a victory, becoming the first Democrat in 25 years to be elected to the Senate from Alabama.”

    Even though it doesn’t really have anything to do with the main subject of the post, I couldn’t resist pointing what is, at least for me, a surprising and interesting piece of Alabama history. The Democrat who won the Alabama Senate election 25 years ago was Alabama’s current Republican Senator Richard Shelby. Shelby was first elected to the Senate as a Democrat in 1986, and re-elected as Democrat in 1992, winning against the Republican candidate by 65 to 33%. In 1994 Shelby switched parties and has run as a Republican ever since, always winning re-election.


    • Just to add in, while the vote percentage and of course numbers were close, this was a smashing win in where it would have been had there been a generic democrat (Jones in this case) vs a Generic Republican.

      Special circumstances made this a non generic republican vs a generic democrat.

      It should have been a 20%+ republican win.

      I don’t believe there is any state that is any more deep red as Alabama.

      • Oklahoma is by far, only state where every single county went Red in 2016 election.

  2. Scott, you do know the Chas. Port Authority’s holding about 400 acres at the Chas. Int’l Airport for presumably a nice, new shiny 797 plant, right? And, now, Charleston’s built up and got itself a local, aviation supplier base. (We won’t even talk about the golf.) Lookout, Seattle. LOL. Also, I’m afraid Defense News is “all wet”. The automotive industry is much more of a “heart” with Mercedes, Hyundai, Honda and suppliers employing over 26,000! Mercedes announced it’s major plant entry into Alabama manufacturing way back in 1993!

  3. Even though this has even less to do with the article… why are so many things named after John C. Stennis?

    A quick google reveals a US senator of notable longevity, but not much else of remark. No war record, no outstanding legislation, no notable support of NASA or the USN… and a questionable attitude toward those of different colour or creed.

    Anyone enlighten me please?

    • Hmm, now that you’ve raised the “questionable attitude” question, I wonder if maybe the Navy will have to consider renaming the new CVN Kennedy (in light of the #metoo movement)? May I suggest the Saratoga? It was a crucial American Revolutionary War battle, and, quite handily, can be shortened to “the Sara”! Or alternatively, the Lexington (“the “Lady Lex”).

  4. Stennis … also chaired the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Appropriations. from wiki….

    chairman of the two most powerful committees for a long time…

  5. I guess the Av Geeks just don’t consider Alabama ala the S.E. an aviation hub.

    Maybe its those odd accents?

  6. Scott, will you have something coming shortly about the just announced Lockheed Aerion joint venture, and whether Lockheed Martin might get back in the “sporty game” with an SST? When you’ve mentioned the Southeast, I understand Lockheed’s looking at its Greenville, S.C. facilities for SST work. (Also, Robert Bass, an Aerion investor, generally has looked to invest in sure winners.)

  7. I don’t know about US polítics but in Australia the best way to get money or concessions out of a government is for an area to change from one party to another everything so often. Studies show swing seats get much more. Might end up working well for Alabama, if Republicans want their seat back.

  8. The one case I followed that dealt with this was the Harley Davidson vs the Japanese cycle mfgs.

    The claim was harm and it was adjudged that 750 CC and above was the claimants territory and they did not make a competing machine below that.

    The line was then drawn at 700 CC (above that import tariff of 25%)

    To me that is the $64 questions. A C500 would start to tread on lower Boeing dirt, but C100/300?

    In short the basic complaint seems flawed. Until or if BBD/Airbus makes an aircraft in the seat count of the 737-7, (the 700 is going out of or is out of produciton)

    Can Boeing sue over single engine aircraft?

  9. I don’t think this analysis is correct. The democrats can nominate Jones to the Armed Services committee. I just means they may have to find someone to switch with him. It depends on how important that is to them, and to Jones.

  10. “Boeing, of course, chose to locate the second 787 production line in Charleston (SC), the first time it’s sited an airliner assembly line outside the Seattle area.”

    To be fair, Spirit Aerosystems, as a former Boeing division, built major sections of the 737 fuselage in Wichita Kansas long before the 787 started final assembly in South Carolina so I might hesitate to call the 787 as the first outside of Seattle.

    And Wichita also was involved in a lot of smaller passenger planes by other manufacturers, and a host of Boeing military planes too.

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