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Northrop Thanks Its Employees, And More Heated Emails

Friday, 20 Jun 2008 | 10:01 AM ET

I reported it would happen, and it did: Northrop Grumman has
called off indefinitely the groundbreaking ceremony for its new Alabama tanker assembly facility, originally scheduled June 28th. Here's a picture of the invitation I received.

Meantime, Northrop Grumman CEO Ron Sugar and President Wes Bush have sent all 120,000 employees a memo expressing appreciation for all the help and support they've gotten during this saga. They say the company is continuing to explore all its options.

I guess it's a good thing I held onto the KC-767 tanker playing cards Boeing sent me last summer.



THE EMAILS RAGE ON
I do very little editing of emails, usually just fixing typos and cutting some down to save space. I feel it is important to get myself out of the way and let readers talk, even though not all emails contain accurate information. For example, one of you wrote that the tanker Boeing sold to the Japanese has not been able to get its boom working to transfer fuel. Boeing says that is incorrect, that one tanker completed such a maneuver in January.

That said, I don't believe in treating emails from readers the same way I treat information I get from companies, experts, officials, analysts, etc. Some of you are upset about this. Usually your emails are far more astute than what I hear from the "experts," but often they're incorrect or full of hyperbole, and that's okay with me. They're READER EMAILS. I don't hold them to the same standard, and I don't think most of you do, either.

Without further ado...more emails.

In one corner, we have the Northrop Grumman/EADS supporters...

From Chad Z:
"Everyone talks about the Boeing supporters in Congress. Is that the same as the FARC supporters in Congress?"

Khadem S.:
"For once can we actually take a look at what our government is buying and make a decision based on the product and NOT politics? Boeing's plane is simply not as capable as Northrop's...Plus, with the dollar being so cheap, we may also win with Airbus setting shop in America, they could save $$ by having their airplanes built in Alabama, that would be HUGE for the US."

From Ken P.:
"Congratulations Boeing. You have won the battle, but just lost the war. Good luck ever trying to sell anything to Europe again, or for that matter congrats on destroying Lockheed's and Northrop's chances of ever selling another product to Europe again. For your sake I hope the Air Force doesn't insist on a 'fly off' one year from now on the competing air frames. If they do, you just put a major egg on the face of the region...And Norm Dicks, you just showed your ignorance of the facts when you made the claim that 'If the Air Force needs them (tankers) now, then they can buy the Boeing KC-767.' They won't be ready to deliver that one for another 5-10 years. Look at how far behind they are on the 787..."

From JB:
"First, corruption at the highest levels. Then, incompetence. What next, Air Force? What next, Boeing? Hey, don't worry, Northrop, we're going to give you a fair trial before we hang you."

From Paul D:
"What amazes me the most about Boeing's complaint on the KC-45 tanker award going to the NG - EADS team is that Boeing thinks this will send American jobs overseas. There is no program in the aerospace industry that sent more American jobs overseas than the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Boeing not only sent fabrication jobs overseas but they also gave away American engineering design technology on how to design an aircraft wing. This short -sighted financial decision by Boeing will send an entire industry overseas..."

In this corner, the Boeing supporters...

Roger B. writes:
"I most certainly would like to know what some of these e-mail writers are smoking because they must be high to make statements that are completely inaccurate if not an out and out lies...The 767 tanker is the most capable, already certified (yes, even to pass fuel), lowest cost (including airframe cost, fuel consumption maintenance, and infrastructure support) available...I applaud the GAO's decision for calling a spade a spade. One thing I don't understand is, if the Air Force is so bent on saving money, shouldn't they have considered refurbishing existing aircraft like the MD-11 (KC-10) or 767? There are plenty of capable airframes sitting in the desert just waiting to be used…"

From WC:
"The Euro is going up against the US$ lately by a large percentage, do the taxpayers have to absorb the difference? I can bet if EADS gets our numbers, it will charge arms and legs for the spare parts. Ask anybody working in the defense industry, spare parts are the reason companies make big money. Boeing will do the same, but at least we don't have to pay for the huge difference in exchange rate."

Terry R:
"This seems open and shut to me. Setting aside all of the rhetoric and political agendas, the GAO determined that the USAF 1) changed the specifications during the competition and didn't appropriately notify Boeing, 2) miscalculated the total lifetime cost of operation and ownership. There were other errors and discrepancies but these two findings alone patently justify re-bidding...with greater oversight from GAO. USAF no longer has any credibility to make the best decision for US taxpayers, US workers, and US service men and women. Rebid it."

Tom B:
"Let's be thoughtful and pragmatic. Tankers designed and built by a U.S. company will offer more benefits to our country. We reside and live here, and future impacts will be felt by our nation...Retain the jobs and technical prowess here to allow our country to be ready to compete globally, with U.S. built and designed aircraft."

From Gary G:
"Boeing has decades, maybe five, of building tankers. Airbus has no experience in this field and neither does Northrop. The French Air Force has 14 Boeing C-135FR/KC-135R Tankers in service, not one Airbus."

John from Florida was among those emailers who will probably be voting for Sen. Obama:
"I am waiting for a response from Senator McCain especially after EADS used his campaign advisors' company to lobby the contract from our military. This after his 2006 letter to investigate the Boeing tanker deal. Will he now do the same after the GAO found many errors in this contract award? He has much to explain why he feels outsourcing our military contracts, or for that matter any outsourcing (as he has written to me), is beneficial to the United States economy."

In neither corner is Dan P.:
"The real criminal is the US Government for allowing Boeing to buy McDonnell Douglas, i.e. we have no major US airframe manufactures to compete (against Boeing)."

Finally, Paul M. writes:
"It makes sense to split the procurement. The USAF has two requirements: one is a tanker to replace the KC-135 which needs to be immediately replaced and the other is a heavy lifter that can replace the KC-10 Extender. Both the Boeing and NG's offerings each fit these unique roles. The GAO was 100% right to shoot down the contract award, the USAF had continual creep of the requirements that favored NG. Unfortunately Boeing was not given a chance, or was led to believe that the 767 platform was the 'ideal' choice."

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  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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