David Brooks of the NYT notes
The chief Air Force official pushing the deal was Darleen Druyun. As The Washington Post reported yesterday, Druyun has recently left the Air Force and gone to work for Boeing. She sold her $692,000 northern Virginia home to a Boeing lawyer. Her daughter works for Boeing. None of this may be illegal or even wrong, but is this what makes you proud to be an American?
First, this whole mess started because the Air Force can’t pay for new tankers up front, so it tried to push back the costs by leasing. Maybe it’s time to stop trying to run a Bush foreign policy on a Clinton defense budget?
Yesterday the WaPo ran a large piece on the proposed deal.
In December 2001, language authorizing the deal — but providing no money — emerged in legislation in what Hill veterans refer to as a “virgin birth,” meaning it was inserted into the defense appropriations bill after the bill had passed the House and Senate, during closed negotiations between conferees. It was then approved on the House and Senate floors as part of a compromise bill.
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), a longtime supporter of expanding federal leasing, has claimed credit for inserting the language. One month before he did so, he received $21,900 in campaign contributions from 31 Boeing executives at a fundraiser in Seattle, where Boeing has many employees.
30 of those 31 had not contributed to Mr. Stevens within the past 10 years. And Darleen Druyun? Get a load of this:
After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Boeing pressed the idea with new vigor. Airlines had deferred commercial orders for 767s, and Boeing laid off thousands of employees at plants in Everett, Wash. But the Air Force had not even listed tankers among its “unfunded priorities” in 2001, a multibillion-dollar wish list of weapons it wanted but could not afford. The Air Force had no money to buy the tankers, so on Sept. 25, 2001, the company’s top executives met with Darleen A. Druyun, then a senior Air Force acquisitions officer, at the Pentagon to work out a lease deal instead.
Druyun agreed at the meeting, according to notes taken by Boeing, not only to promote the leasing idea on Capitol Hill but also to find needed money by cutting back a comparatively inexpensive modernization program for existing tankers — an arrangement, Boeing and the Air Force have acknowledged, that will retire flightworthy tankers early to procure new ones.
(Emphasis mine) Is there ANYTHING about this deal that doesn’t stink? I’ve been skeptical of the actual NEED for new tankers, but readers will recognize that I’m all for making sure our military has the hardware it need to fight this war. The plan to cut back maintenance of the existing tankers, though, is a clear signal that new tankers aren’t needed. At least not as soon as lease-backers would have us believe.
In November 2001, the Air Force drafted a document spelling out what capabilities the new tankers must have. Col. Mark Donohue, an official in the air mobility office, promptly sent it to Boeing for private comment, and the company sought, and received, concessions so the requirements matched what the 767 could do. The Air Force agreed to drop a demand that the new tankers match or exceed the capabilities of the old ones.
I’ve heard this before, but it’s never been clear what that specification was.
Asked a month ago about Boeing’s travails, [President] Bush spoke about trying to “help the worker, help the economy” by funding the construction of new planes. About the tanker leasing deal, he said, “I think it’s going to go through.”
How does overspending for something that you don’t need “help the economy”? It helps Boeing, for sure, and helps THOSE workers, but isn’t cutting taxes then turning around and squandering what’s left just a little ludicrous?
If we really need tankers, buy them. Make some hard decisions. And I don’t have a problem buying from Boeing, even if AirBus had a slightly better offer. If we’re going to spend, we should spend in America unless it’s stupid to do so. But first we need to be sure we really need to spend. We could sure buy a lot of Interceptor body armor for $5.6 billion.