Just What <i>is</i> Everyone Bitching About? Boeing's as International as Airbus

Last Updated Mar 12, 2008 2:44 PM EDT

Granted, it's not hard to get Lou Dobbs all twitterpated. It's part of his schtick. Earlier this week, CNN's bloviator-in-chief was puffing and snarling about the Air Force's awarding a $35 billion air tanker contract to an international team that includes Northrop Grumman and the European firm, EADS Airbus, over a supposedly all-American Boeing.

"I have described this decision as completely and utterly idiotic," Dobbs told Senator Maria Cantwell, a guest on his show, on March 11. Dobbs and Cantwell agreed that the deal could affect the U.S. economy and pose a serious threat to our national security â€" after all, isn't Airbus, like, French or something? Other TV and radio pundits quickly followed suit, each trying to out-patriot the others in denouncing the deal.

What Dobbs and others fail to realize, however, is that Boeing itself proudly utilizes "crowdsourcing," contracting with firms around the world to supply not only parts but crucial systems. As noted in our May, 2007 BNET Basics report, For Boeing, It Takes a Village to Build a New Airplane:

In recent years, American aerospace know-how has migrated to international competitors; in 2003, Boeing lost its position as the global sales leader to Airbus, a European consortium. Yet instead of trying to compete with foreign expertise, Boeing decided to harness it by inviting 100 global suppliers to collaborate on the design, engineering, and manufacturing of the new 787 Dreamliner, the company's first all-new commercial airliner in 12 years.

--Boeing executives concluded that mass collaboration was the only way to create the kind of cheaper, more fuel-efficient jetliner that airlines want. The logic is simple: Boeing's key suppliers -- including Mitsubishi, Kawasaki, Honeywell, and General Electric -- develop plenty of products for other industries and international markets, and their collective expertise is invaluable. "It would be arrogant to think that all of the best ideas and best technologies exist within the walls of Boeing," Boeing spokeswoman Loretta Gunter says.

Boeing's international footprint probably has a lot to do with the fact that, while it was content to let Dobbs and others do the xenophobic puffing on its behalf, the company was careful not to cite national security concerns in its protest to the General Accounting Office. Instead, the company cited procurement irregularities and complained that the "competition was seriously flawed and resulted in the selection of the wrong airplane."

Well, I guess procurement irregularities just don't make for dramatic TV punditry the way that a national security crisis does.