Alabama politicians know the outrage drill — intimately. Their displeasure over Pentagon decisions that killed Mobile's chances of hosting a production facility for Northrop Grumman and its European-based partner, EADS, still rubs them extremely raw.
So, the message from here to Washington state and Kansas politicians: Welcome to the club of outrage.
Problem is, those Northwest and Midwest lawmakers must understand the most vital issue — providing the Air Force with the best refueling tanker. That's why the Department of Defense's decision Wednesday to extend the bidding deadline until July 9 is a commendable action.
Yes, that's a reinvigorating development for Alabama. A month ago, Northrop Grumman backed out of the process because it felt changes in the bidding procedure unfairly favored rival Boeing, which would make its tankers in those aforementioned states.
EADS, with its partner out of play, was reluctant to jump solo into the process. With no competition, that effectively left Boeing as the de facto winner of a potential $40 billion no-bid deal.
That's not good business — for the Air Force, for the Pentagon, for anyone.
What this deadline does is give EADS more time to consider entering an Alabama-based bid — without Northrop Grumman — for the contract. For Mobile, the potential is obvious: A winning EADS bid would bring several thousand high-paying jobs to south Alabama and be another feather in the state's recruiting cap for international industry. No wonder why Gov. Bob Riley has been so tireless in seeking this contract.
EADS management may decide it's still not in the company's best interest to give it a go. Nothing's concrete. But at least the DoD's deadline extension gives EADS time to consider its options; likewise, it gives the appearance that the Pentagon wants to divorce itself from the perception of issuing a $40 billion no-bid deal.
So, politicians such as U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., need to cool their heels and let the process play out so that the Air Force, and not merely one state over the other, is the ultimate winner.
Of course, Murray doesn't see it that way. "This is completely unacceptable," she told the Mobile Press-Register. "It's time to stop being held hostage by (EADS') 11th-hour demands, and it's time to more forward with providing America's military with an American-made tanker."
Is that the biggest issue? Giving the Air Force a tanker made in America?
No, it's not. It never has been.
The hope here has always been that the Air Force gets what it needs — the best product, regardless of manufacturer — and south Alabama could benefit, as well. In Alabama's perfect world, that would be the choice.
But having a competitive process that's fair to all comers is a necessity, a must-have. The DoD's deadline extension is the right call. Kudos for making it.