Some quality mainstream journalism

Washington Post: Breaking News, World, US, DC News & Analysis - The Washington PostAfter plenty of bashing on Big Media for wretched reporting, I am happy to point to this fantastic article excoriating the Boeing tanker deal as pure pork in excruciating detail. When Republicans talk about all of the money they will save cutting waste from the bureaucracy, why does corporate welfare get a free pass?

The idea of converting 767s into tankers surfaced formally in February 2001, when Boeing proposed to convert 36 planes and sell them to the Air Force for $124.5 million each. The unsolicited bid was undercut by an Air Force study the same month -- drafted by a consulting arm of Boeing -- concluding that existing Air Force KC-135 tankers would be "viable through the year 2040" and that no new planes need be bought until after 2010.

... After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacksf 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 ... 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. ...

Under the contract, Boeing would produce 100 refueling tankers based on its 767-model airliner, a deal Dicks predicts would be expanded and eventually bring the giant weapons manufacturer $100 billion.


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 ... 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.

Thirty of those contributors -- including executives from the Boeing division that makes 767s -- had not contributed to Stevens in the previous decade ... About 55 percent of the company's expected revenue of $49 billion this year will come from the federal treasury ...

"the Air Force appeared not so much to negotiate with Boeing as to advocate for it, to the point of" giving Boeing unusual control over pricing, and other terms and conditions.

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.

... Boeing then strove to "prevent an AOA [analysis of alternatives] from being conducted," according to a Boeing briefing chart presented to top executives in late 2001 and other e-mails. This, too, surprised Coyle. An AOA "is done virtually every time"

... An Air Force financial consultant told Boeing at one point that it was good that attention was focused on Enron instead of "your illogical accounting posture," according to a Boeing e-mail.

... Moreover, the Institute for Defense Analyses, an independent think tank, told the Pentagon after a detailed study that the Air Force was overpaying by at least $21 million per plane and that the lease violated federal accounting rules.

... Critics of the deal have continued to complain about Air Force decisions to award Boeing a $5 billion sole-source maintenance contract for the new tankers and to permit the company to earn a 15 percent profit on the deal, or more than double what Boeing makes from commercial aircraft orders.