Mobile’s Northrop Grumman may lose tanker bid

Published 7:27 pm Tuesday, September 16, 2008

By By Lowell McGill
Do you remember my writing about Brookley Air Base several weeks ago?
If not, let me refresh your memory.
You see, that was the Air Force base where my father and, perhaps, some of your family members and friends earned their livelihood back in the 1950s and 1960s.
What you may not know is the fact that, allegedly, politics caused this installation to be phased out, resulting in many employees being transferred to bases in other states. Some lost their jobs altogether.
Now why I am renewing this old story?
Well, the reason is simple. Politics have, once again, raised their ugly heads and an “ill wind” blowing directly from the windy city of Chicago may have thrown “a curve” into Mobile’s opportunity to get the Northrop Grumman contract to build refueling tanker planes that are so vitally needed in our military today.
Let me back up and state why this contract is so important to us. I can foresee us, right here in Atmore, landing related facilities such as supply houses, parts houses and countless other NG affiliated businesses. This would mean jobs, jobs, jobs and more jobs for your children, your grandchildren and my grandchildren. Now, it would appear that we may never get these jobs.
Why did I say Chicago? One reason is because Boeing, competitor to NG, has many of their main offices in this city. The other reason is because just this week presidential candidate Barack Obama, whom I am sure is an honorable man, was quoted in the Sept. 13 issue of the Mobile Press Register as praising the Pentagon for its decision to call off the Air Force Tanker competition and suggested he would favor Boeing Co. for the contract if elected president. It would appear to me that his statement would readily cost him votes in every state that NG is based. Now, realize I am not a politician, and I want you to know this is the very first time I have written a column with a political theme, but, if I were running for president, I know that if I made an untimely statement like this a great deal of my political support would vanish.
Now let me say right here if John McCain had made this statement I would be writing about him in the same manner. Statements of support for Boeing come from both Democrats and Republicans in those states where Boeing presently has plants. We realize state politicians should support the desires and needs of their constituency beneficial to their respective states.
But when one of the presidential candidates openly states he is taking a stand, such as the case of Obama, then I think his political advisers are giving him unwise advice.
According to the newspaper story, an official from the City of Mobile, another from the State of Alabama, Gov. Riley and Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman Corporation are literally fuming about this contract delay . In fact, dozens of stories regarding this contract have been circulated worldwide. The internet is full of news articles about it
Speaking to a group of aircraft and Boeing supporters, Obama said, “John McCain just doesn’t get it. Just ask your brothers and sisters at Boeing.” He criticized McCain for employing a pair of lobbyists who formerly worked for Airbus, part of a team led by Northrop Grumman Corporation that is battling Boeing for the potential $40 billion deal. Nothing was said in that article about the pending strike involving some Boeing workers.
Defense Secretary Gates said in the news article Boeing and NG needed a “cooling off period.” Gates was pushing to have the contract settled by year’s end. But, according to the printed source, that will apparently not be the case . In fact it may be a year or two before the contract is awarded, according to the published report.
NG and Mobile were selected to receive the contract last February, but government auditors found numerous mistakes in the way the military conducted its investigation. Now, Gates has given way to the next presidential administration which takes office Jan. 20, 2009.
In a Wednesday press release . a Mobile group supporting the NG contract displayed outrage and has called on area citizens to rally behind them and let their voices be heard all across America. Officials from this group hope the federal government will play fair in awarding us this contract. Some in this group have faith that Mobile will win out in the end. But, when politics become involved, you are never assured the outcome.
Please understand I am not taking a political stand. I have the documentation to back up everything I write about in this column. If McCain had made statements such as I have presented, I assure you would know it. But my main point is jobs. I want this contract to come to Mobile, and I want my family and your families to benefit from the vast number of jobs it will create. I want Atmore to get a “piece” of the NG work.
This is the first time I have written in this manner, and I am sure I’m going to hear it from those who don’t share my views. It will be very clear that those who “have let me have it” are not interested in jobs, but merely politics.
Speaking of politics, the MSNBC cable network, removed two of their anchors from coverage of live political events according to a story circulated by The Washington Post Sept. 8, 2008. Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann were accused of being too opinionated in their coverage of these events. It was reported these two would remain with the network but did not elaborate in what capacity. The outspoken Olbermann has kicked around from network to network. He tried sports announcing, but couldn’t make it there either. MSNBC has been ranked on the very bottom in terms of viewers, falling far below CNN and top ranked Fox News. Former U S Congressman Joe Scarborough of Pensacola adds a conservative voice to the cow-tailing NBC cable affiliate.
CBS and news anchor Dan Rather parted ways a few months ago reportedly because of political opinions.
I might mention that some TV pundits are backing off on some of their political satire here of late, as they are finding it back firing on them in a manner they had not anticipated.
Next week, if I haven’t been run out of town, I’ll have more nostalgic stories for you.
Lowell McGill is a historical columnist for The Atmore Advance. He can be reached at

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