Friday, March 21, 2008

Hugh Hewitt: Sadly in the Tank For Boeing

Well, I sent the letter (excerpt below) to Mr Hewitt after his Mark McGraw Spinfest, and as you will see below the excerpt -- alas, it did no good.

I’ve been following this tanker competition and decision closely for a very long time and since February 29th have watched Boeing fling a stream of different complaints against the wall to see what will stick. Last week it was the ‘size’ issue. Yesterday it was ‘changes’ and a ‘Northrop Grumman model’ in the process. Today, besides a lot of misstatements that have already been slapped down in the trades (check the last three issues of Aviation Week for starters) Mr. McGraw introduced the V-22 issue (that is ‘new’ to the public BTW). It is interesting that he claims that the Boeing tanker can service anything including the V-22, when as point of fact, ALL new tankers have to be qualified to service the different aircraft and Boeing’s tanker (called ‘Frankentanker’ by some wag because it is a kluge of different 767 models that has never existed before) hasn’t even been built yet!. Mr. McGraw only believes the 767 can do the job based on analytical models and simulations. Nor has Boeing built any advanced refueling capability comparable to what is being installed on the Northrop Grumman KC-45. (interesting considering Mr. McGraw’s “critical military technology” claim eh?) Boeing took the position that if they won the contract, THEN they’d build a new system.

Boeing is playing two distinct and distasteful PR games: publicly playing the ‘grading’, ‘process’, and ‘critical military technology’ angles, while using proxies in the form of union hacks and hometown politicos to play the jobs/protectionist angle. There’s just so much wrong with Boeing’s two-pronged attack on the award, it makes me sick. I retired from the Air Force 15 years ago, and today, if I had Mr. McGraw within arm’s length I would have rubbed his nose up and down my bare sleeve so he could count the bumps that are still where my stripes used to be.

Please note, that while I have deep interests in Northrop Grumman, I’m also on record as generally preferring Boeing’s designs and products over EADS’, and that if anybody will make the EADS airframe a great plane – it will be Northrop Grumman.

For balance, PLEASE!- you simply MUST request an appearance by the KC-45 program manager. I’m sure Mr. Meyer will be only too happy to oblige. In the interim, I suggest you get a hold of some of the less ‘emotional’ trade publications for some perspective. If you are going to intelligently broadcast on the KC-45 contract,
you’re going to need more show prep.
Well I have found Hugh Hewitt generally tries to do the right thing on principle, I think this time he's standing way too close to some Boeing principals in which he has some misplaced trust. This demonstrates one of the most frustrating things about him for me: not having all the neccessary facts in hand rarely stops him from taking a position. Based upon his actions before the McGraw love-fest and after I sent the letter, I can only conclude he is obviously (and obliviously) in the tank for Boeing on this issue.

What actions are those?

Well first there's this opinion piece, that I hadn't read before yesterday's show that gives us some insight into his attitudes about the KC-45 contract going to Northrop Grumman. We see in it where he did his research: "I asked one friend within Boeing for an assessment of this argument". Gee, how biased could his opinion be? All kinds of interesting comments come afterwards. The thread starts out with echoes of Hugh and slowly over time the more factual posts start showing up.

After the interview ( I think he actually put it up before the show was over), Hugh had a red-meat post at his blog about the KC-45 tanker "not being able to refuel the V-22" but the 'Boeing tanker' allegedly can (stated as a certainty by McGraw). The comments for that post started out a little more skeptical of McGraw's claims, when a comment caught my eye: someone or something posting as 'Tankerblog' wrote:

Good Question Hugh!
Some good comments also, but some very poor ones.
The V-22 is used by SecOps folks so it operates on the tactical, operational, strategic level. Limiting a Combatant Commander's options for refueling the V-22 while not fatal is a concern as the services shrink and need more "Joint" assets.(Read about Desert One to see how bad things turn out when forced to do on-ground refueling.)
See for more tanker issues.

Now the 'Desert One' reference alone could usually draw me in because I used to fly with guys who were cut out of that operation over a political decision to use Marine helos, but that's not what caught my eye this time of course: Who or what the f@$% was "tankerblog"? I visited the site (yawn) and then had to come back to HH's V-22 post to leave this comment:

Tankerblog: Boeing Protectionist Shill
See Hugh, this is exactly what I was talking about in the e-mail I sent you yesterday. Boeing has mobilized its army of 'America first' Airbus haters (on both sides of the political spectrum) as one prong of an attack, while they fling anything about the selection process they can distort or misrepresent against the wall to see what will stick as the other prong of the attack. is just a bucket for spreading all the BS that legislators with vested interests in protecting Boeing's little tanker monopoly have set up. The 'Center for Security Policy' association at their website is a nice touch: except it is hardly unbiased. Or is "Dr. Charles M. Kupperman, Vice President, Strategic Integration & Operations, Missile Defense Systems, The Boeing Company" no longer on the board?

There's a lot of other Boeing twisted BS in some of the other posts as well. I'll just take the 'EADS hasn't built a tanker' trope for now. Y'see, this is a misrepresentation of what is actually a key advantage of the Northrop Grumman bid: The KC-45 team has already built a plane for this contract and Boeing is proposing a Frankentanker that is still on the tube (and is only PROJECTED to be able to refuel the V-22 -it is not proven). EADS is on or ahead of schedule with all it's existing tanker programs and Boeing is behind on all of theirs. Boeing didn't build a new boom system yet because they wanted to do it on the program dime - NG's boom is already flying.

People!: There's no such thing as corporate memory and the people that built the last Boeing tanker are dead or retired.
Now I guess the Boeing guy 'Kupperman' is still there, but he's now listed as a retired VP of Boeing. No matter, from the website we can tell the Center for Security Policy is obviously in league with the Boeing boys as a proxy on this issue holding the "Buy American" front.

Today's Show?
So did Hugh get another voice to provide a Boeing-free point of view on the matter as I pleaded for him to do yesterday? In a word:


Friday HH brings in regular guest Frank Gaffney at the end of the first hour, and Gaffney starts parroting the same unsubstatiated Boeing assertions and defense technology canards: commenting on them as if they were fact. So what's Gaffney's relationship to Boeing and their proxies? Oh yeah, he's the freakin' President and CEO of the Center for Security Policy.

Gaffney Update 04/01/08: According to a HuffPo poster who doesn't like Gaffney's ties to Israel (love it when I get to use the Useful Idiot ~wink~) Gaffney is on record as being a 'Boeing Boy'. End Update.

Hugh Hewitt is living in an echo chamber that was built in Seattle and Witchita on this issue. He needs to ask a Northrop Grumman representative the same questions he opened his Thursday column with (also linked in this post's title).

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