And use a calculator, dammit!

Seattle PI: McCain presses White House to check tanker deal

The moronic plan to lease Boeing 767 tankers is creeping ahead. Senator John McCain, the leading (sole?) voice of reason in the issue has urged the White House to “revisit” the new counter-counter-counter proposal that calls for leasing 20 planes instead of the 100 originally asked for.

In making his case, McCain relied on conclusions drawn by two independent agencies — the Congressional Budget Office and the General Accounting Office. According to McCain, the analysis by the CBO found that the lease “failed to comply with four out of five” of the condition necessary to allow a lease to proceed. And on the fifth criteria, he said, the lease “complies with the letter but not the spirit” of the requirement.

The CBO analysis found that the special purpose entity that would be created to buy the planes from Boeing and then leased to the Air Force was not truly autonomous as required by law. The entity would be “substantially controlled by and act on behalf of the government,” the analysis found. “In other words, given the degree of the government’s participation in the (special purpose entity), the government is, in effect, leasing the tankers from itself,” McCain wrote.

McCain also says the lease should be nullified because the lease payments will equal more than 90 percent of the value of the aircraft, an amount that is far greater than allowed under federal accounting rules.

McCain also pointed to findings by the GAO and CBO that leasing would cost more than buying the planes outright, a fact that he said disqualifies leasing as an option.

In my humble opinion, the only criteria that we need to check is summed up in that last sentence. Buying them is cheaper than leasing them. Does anyone look at lease payments on a car that are higher than purchase payments and say “Well, yeah, payments are more, and we won’t actually own the car when we’re done paying for it. But we save $250 today.”? Well, some people probably do. But they’re not the sort I want spending MY money. And that’s who’s dollars are going to be spent leasing these so that Boeing doesn’t have to shut down its 767 production line in Everrett, Washington. Mine. Your’s. Everyone’s.

One other teensy weensy question here is “Do the current tankers really need to be replaced?” So far, I haven’t seen anything that indicates that they do. Would newer tankers be nice? Sure. Do we need them? It sure doesn’t look like it. And even if we do, we don’t need them so damn soon that it’s worth millions of extra dollars per plane just to get them more quickly.

The Air Force and the Bush administration repeatedly have stressed that the lease is legal and that although it will cost more than an outright purchase, it is justified because the planes are badly needed and the Air Force cannot afford to buy them.

Huh? The Air Force “cannot afford to buy them,” but they CAN afford to spend MORE to lease them for a while before giving them back. (BTW, we won’t really give them back. We’ll BUY them when the lease is up. Isn’t that clever?) What a joke. The funniest manure money can buy.

According to this Reuters story on Wired News:

“This is a much more honest approach that will save taxpayers up to $4 billion in the long run,” said [Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John] Warner, a Virginia Republican, rounding down savings that aides put at $4.2 billion.

That’s basically a another way of saying that this is “a much less dishonest approach that will only cost taxpayers an extra $1 billion in the long run instead of the extra $5.25 billion we tried to bilk them out of.” (I got that number by figuring that saving $4.2 billion on 80 planes is about equal to saving $5.25 billion on 100. If you read more than two stories about this issue you’ll discover that each story has at least two or three estimates of costs and savings, and no story ever agrees with any other story. Obsfucation at it’s best/worst.)

Plus there’s this:

To sweeten the deal for lease backers, Warner and [the panel’s ranking Democrat Carl] Levin took no steps to block Boeing from obtaining a no-bid, $6 billion-plus maintenance and training contract.

Boeing is going to train Air Force personnel to fly and maintain jets? For $6 billion? Plus?

My head hurts.

This really seems like a simple issue to me. It certainly seems like simple math. And the more people work overtime to convince us it’s all really very complicated, the more I’m convinced that it’s not.

On a related note, if Boeing can’t afford to shut down its 767 line, why can it afford to shut down its 757 line? Maybe we could double-pay for some 757s modified to carry all the money from Washington, DC, to Everrett, Washington. Just a thought.

UPDATE: Now Boeing is trying to convince the British military to buy used British Airways 767s and convert them to tankers so that British Airways can be the first customer to buy the new 7E7. Check out the article to see what twisted scheme Boeing’s come up with for the Brits.


  1. I wholeheartedly agree with just buying new tankers outright if it’s cheaper than leasing. Other than that, the USAF does have a point, a lot of the KC-135s in service are over 40, and being exposed to much more frequent use these days. The Air Force could achieve serious savings if it replaced its older KC-135s with a modern, efficient plane. ***