Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thanks, Boeing, for a Very Unmerry Christmas

We found out on Christmas Eve that Beth is losing her job.

To make a long story short, Beth works for the Institute for Connecting Science Research to the Classroom, a group currently housed at Virginia Tech which works to connect the work of real research scientists to K-12 school science teachers.  Earlier this year, defense contractor Northrop-Grumman expressed interest in becoming the sole source of funding for the ICSRC's "One Mission" program.  Despite assuring the ICSRC that "nothing had changed" and that they still intended to fund the program as late as this fall, Northrop-Grumman decided at their December meeting not to do so "at this time."  With that sudden loss of funding, the Institute will for all intents and purposes cease to exist, costing Beth her job.

You may recall that Northrop-Grumman won a huge contract with the Air Force earlier this year to deliver the next generation of tanker aircraft... and that Boeing, their primary competitor, was furious.  Boeing played every card they could, claiming that Northrop's win would "send jobs overseas" (since they were subcontracting to Airbus-parent EADS to build the airframe itself) and would "threaten US national security" (because foreign companies were involved in the group--nothing new, mind you; I've worked with Canadian companies on defense work several times).  Boeing, too, is a union shop, and they managed to pull enough strings to get the bidding re-opened (thus costing Northrop the contract).

Worst of all: Boeing wasn't even ready with a new bid of their own!  They whined to the Pentagon and complained that they needed "more time" to put together a bid.  (And the tactic worked: the Air Force decided to delay a decision on the re-opened contract to allow Boeing more time to assemble a workable bid that wouldn't simply be rejected out of hand.)

While Northrop-Grumman didn't single-out the loss of the tanker contract as the reason they declined to find the ICSRC, it's pretty clear the loss of that much money had to have been a major role in the decision.

So now Beth is out looking for a new job, surely at a significant pay cut given the current economic situation we face.  Boeing's argument that Northrop's contract win would cost US jobs has come back to bite them, for at least three US jobs have now been lost by reversing that decision (and I am sure Northrop themselves have had to curtail hiring and potentially even lay off employees involved in the original contract effort).  Thanks again, Boeing (and Northrop-Grumman) for giving us a very un-merry Christmas this year!

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