Robert Novak reports on a sweetheart deal whereby the Air Force is leasing planes it doesn’t need from Boeing at an exorbitant price. The reason? Politics: The project is spread out over 17 states and was able to garner the support of the Speaker of the House, President Pro Tem of the Senate, and several other key congressional figures.

While this deal smells bad and, unless there is substantial information missing from Novak’s piece, I oppose it, we shouldn’t be too shocked. Indeed, arguably, this is what Congress is elected to do. While we have come to think of the United States as a unitary actor, it never has been. Instead, it is a collection of 435 Congressional Districts and 50 states, each with elected representatives vying to maximize the interests of their little piece of the country. And, while John McCain is painted as a hero in this piece, it is my guess that Arizona is one of the states that doesn’t benefit from this arrangement.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Paul says:

    And, while John McCain is painted as a hero in this piece,

    Ain’t he always?

  2. James Joyner says:

    There is that.

  3. drlivipr says:

    Okay, everybody’s pissed at Boeing. Big Money Bad.

    Lest we forget: The 135E’s were OOOOOLLLLLDDDD A models being operated by the Reserves and Guard when they got the upgrade to E model 22 years ago. The Active Duty A models spent a lot of time on alert (not flying) while the Reserves flew the wings off their airframes. When the Actives upgraded to the CFM56 (R model) starting about the mid 80’s, the airframes were still middle aged, while the E models referred to in the article kept sagging their way through a good job.

    Since SAC died in ’92 and Air Mobility Command picked up the tankers, these airplanes have been flown seventy ways to Sunday. A wing commander in Kansas took a six-month standdown in ’94 because of the workload.

    On paper, the extra expense of new aircraft looks like a bad deal. The folks in flight suits will fly what we give ’em regardless. And every time they preflight a bird that’s already got reinforcing bands around the tail structure, they have to wonder how much longer it’ll be worth it.

    Boeing’s not the bad guy here. The folks we send to Washington who don’t understand the effects of age on airframes don’t help.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Could be. I’m just relying on Novak’s reportage:

    The General Accounting Office estimates $20 billion to $30 billion in government costs for leasing 100 Boeing 767 tankers for six years, costing $12.2 billion to $22.4 billion more than simply modernizing existing KC-135E tankers. Actually, the OMB reports the current fleet is in good shape, and the Air Force says there is no need to start replacing the KC-135Es before 2012.