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Boeing May Not Work on KC-46A in Kansas

Update – It has been reported that Boeing has called a mandatory meeting of all its Wichita employees tomorrow. It is also been reported that part of the new contract with the Machinists requires the KC-46A work to be done in Washington if the Wichita site closes.

Previously Boeing (BA) has done a great deal of their work on military and government aircraft at their facility in Wichita, KS. This has included the VC-25 Air Force One version of the 747, the KC-135 tankers and the E-4A command and control aircraft. It was assumed, especially by the Kansas Congressional delegation, that much of the work on the new KC-46A tanker would also be done at the facility.

Now word is leaking out that Boeing is planning on doing all of the necessary tanker effort at their main facility in Everett, WA. The 767 that will be converted to the tankers will be assembled there but rather then being militarized in Wichita they will remain in Washington. This, understandably, has roiled the media, the workers in Kansas and various Senators and Congressmen.

They feel that their support for Boeing to win the contract is now wasted as rather then seeing more work Boeing could be eliminating jobs and laying people off in Kansas.

Boeing has stated that until they understand fully the effects of changes in the U.S. defense budget that they won’t commit to announcing anything about the Wichita plant and their overall work structure. This may not be until later this year. It had been estimated that over 7,000 jobs will be created by the KC-46A militarization and support efforts with the idea that those jobs would be in Kansas. Now that is not guaranteed.

This may be an effect of the new contract Boeing signed with their main union that allowed them to successfully get the U.S. government to drop action against the company for opening a new facility in South Carolina. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had filed a complaint against the company stating that the only reason Boeing expanded to South Carolina was to retaliate against unions in Washington. This was dropped after the company signed a new deal with the union that promised to keep a great deal of jobs in the Northwest.

Boeing intends to use the South Carolina facility to support commercial 787 production.

If the company does not send KC-46A work to Wichita it will cause severe problems with its relations to that state’s Congressional delegation which has in the past been very supportive of Boeing. The next few months could be very interesting for the company, the U.S. aerospace industry and Kansas.

Virginia Begins to Fight for Joint Forces Command

In a recent series of cost saving proposals the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recommended closing the Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) located in Norfolk, VA. In Gates’ eyes the JFCOM which develops doctrine and training for the U.S. military across services performed duplicative work and employed too many people, especially contractors.

The closing when it does happen will be a severe blow to Virginia’s economy. The JFCOM employs over 5,000 people with high paying jobs that spend money and buy houses in the local area. Now the Congressional delegation from the Commonwealth has begun to fight back.

In both the Senate and House legislators are planning on introducing legislation that will require the DoD to provide detailed reports and analysis as to how they came to the decision. In the House Representative Glenn Nye will introduce the bill and Senator Jim Webb in the Senate.

Even though the legislation will be looked at by Congress it is no guarantee to stop the closing in the near term. It has first to make it through both Houses and then be signed by the President. It also may be attached to another bill such as the defense appropriations or authorization bills which would make it easier to get passed.

Congress could also not fund the closure which would keep the command open. Either way there would be a fight with the Executive Branch over this decision and really the move could only be postponed so long as the Administration kept trying to include it in their plans. Congress can fight a delaying action but without some major change in policy the JFCOM would end up closing.

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Competition for Missile Defense Support Contract Heats Up

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) manages several different programs to provide missile defense for the United States and its military. One of these is the Ground-Based Midcourse system. This consists of right now a group of interceptors in Alaska along with sensor and fire control radars scattered across the globe. The Obama Administration as one of its defense reform decisions canceled further expansion of the system stopping further deployment of interceptor missiles and a radar system in Europe. The existing system though remains functional and must be supported.

Boeing (BA) had been the primary contractor on the development and deployment of the Mid-Course system. It currently has the contract to provide maintenance and support for the existing components. The MDA intends to re-bid this contract with an open competition and various teams are forming to bid on this work.

Photo from mightyohm’s flickr photostream.

Lockheed Martin (LMT) announced that their team will contain the Alaska based Alaska Aerospace Corp.. This company had been heavily involved in the development of the Kodiak Island space launch complex used by the MDA to launch test and target systems. That facility though will not see much use in the future as MDA and other U.S. users look to use other sites.

Boeing will attempt to keep the contract and have already announced that they will team with Northrop Grumman (NOC) on their new proposal.

Choosing partners in these kind of situations are motivated by more then just what work they can do but also what political influence they might have. AAC will certainly aid Lockheed in that it will most likely garner support from Alaska state and local officials as well as their Congressional delegation. Look for similar announcements by all those intending to win the contract to highlight small businesses and other companies that might be helpful.

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Alabama Keeps Pushing The Air Force

Supposedly in a meeting between DoD and Air Force officials with members of the Alabama Congressional delegation it came out that the U.S.A.F. will adjust the KC-X RFP to keep Northrop Grumman (NOC) and EADS (EADS.P) in the competition. This of course is a report by Senator Sessions (R-AL) from the meeting. There is no official response as to how the U.S. officials will react to Northrop’s threatened non-participation.

It is in the best interest of the U.S. Government to have two bidders for this program and this may be a necessary step to assure that.

Alabama Congressional Delegation Pressing For Northrop And EADS

The Alabama Congressional Delegation will hold a press conference tomorrow to discuss the newly re-started KC-X contest. Based on comments today made by Senator Shelby (R-AL) there is concern among them that the cost focused draft RFP is not the best solution and my be biased against the Northrop Grumman/EADS proposal. The war of words over this has just begun and will drag on until the contract is awarded and the protests end.

More KC-X reaction

Seattle PI on Union Reaction.

Seattle Times on Washington’s Congressional delegation reaction. Notice even the Democrats are unhappy – all DoD dollars are local.

Reuters on general Congressional reactions – Alabama happy.

California Fox station says the larger capacity of the KC-30 was key.

Spokane just wants new tankers to replace their KC-135 aircraft.

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