Beechcraft To Protest Air Force Light Air Contract

By: Lily Wu - Email
By: Lily Wu - Email

Friday, March 8, 2013

Beechcraft Corporation today announced it will formally protest the U.S. Air Force’s recent award of the Light Air Support contract to its Brazilian competitor, Embraer.

"I'm not surprised that they're filing the protest," said Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo. "The workers out at Beechcraft deserve a decision that is more thoughtful than the one the Air Force made."

In a news release, Beechcraft said an estimated 1,400 jobs in Kansas and other states are in jeopardy as a result of the Air Force decision.

“Following our debrief with the Air Force earlier this week, we are very perplexed by this decision,” said Bill Boisture, CEO, Beechcraft. “Our belief that we have the best aircraft was confirmed by the Air Force rating our aircraft ‘exceptional’ and the fact that we are the lower cost solution was confirmed by the USAF’s public award announcement.”

Last year, an Air Force investigation found evidence of bias toward Brazil-based Embraer and its Nevada-based partner, Sierra Nevada (SNC), which led to the decision to restart the competition. Although SNC later sued the Air Force attempting to enforce the biased decision, U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Christine O.C. Miller wrote in her Nov. 1, 2012, opinion that based on the investigation’s evidence of bias “the Air Force’s decision to cancel the contract award to SNC and re-solicit proposals was reasonable and rational and should stand.”

“We simply don’t understand how the Air Force can justify spending over 40 percent more – over $125 million more – for what we consider to be less capable aircraft,” Boisture said. “Given our experience of last year and our continued strong concern that there are again significant errors in the process and evaluation in this competition, we are left with no recourse other than to file a protest with the GAO. The Air Force needs to make the right decision for the nation and our future allies.”

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International Association of Machinists Statement

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) today cited the threat to 1,400 American jobs in its call for a reversal of the recent U.S. Air Force contract favoring Brazilian-based Embraer over Wichita, KS-based Beechcraft Corp.

On February 27, 2013, the Air Force announced it selected Embraer for an initial contract worth $427.5 million to build and deliver 20 Light Air Support aircraft to the Afghan Air Force. The selection process is now facing intense scrutiny for choosing a significantly more expensive aircraft in the midst of sequestration and failing to consider the impact on U.S. workers, the U.S. industrial base and U.S. national security interests.

“We should be very concerned whenever U.S. taxpayer dollars are used to create hundreds of jobs in any foreign country,” said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. “We should be outraged when the loss of those jobs also threatens vital U.S. economic and national security interests.

“I don’t know why the U.S. government is bending over backwards to accommodate Brazil in the midst of sequestration, but this is a real blow to American workers and taxpayers,” added Buffenbarger. “The claim by Embraer that most of their plane would be ‘built in the USA’ adds insult to the injury of the 1,400 jobs that will be destroyed here at home.”

The IAM represents more than 3,000 active and laid off workers at Beechcraft, which recently emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings. In 2012, IAM members ratified a new contract with Beechcraft that preserved pensions for employees while giving the 80-year old company the needed financial lift for a successful restructuring.

“In the midst of an industry-wide crisis, Beechcraft partnered with its employees and union representatives to give this storied company a new lease on life,” said Buffenbarger. “It would be a cruel irony if they survived the great recession only to be mowed down by a misguided bidding process that favored a foreign nation over U.S. national interests.”

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