So Both Sides in KC-X Got Subsidies, Now What?

The World Trade Organization has apparently issued a final ruling saying that Boeing did indeed recieve unfair — not illegal — subsidies that benefit the development of its aircraft fleet.

According to the New York Times, the WTO ruled, in a confidential report, that Boeing received about $5 billion in subsidies. The WTO focused on about $24 billion in R & D contracts Boeing receives from the military and NASA along with Washington state tax breaks that European governments say gave the Chicago-based company a technological and financial edge.

Last summer, the WTO found that EADS had received billions in unfair subsidies as well, something that was key in allowing EADS to eat up large amounts of Boeing’s market share around the globe, according to the U.S. trade representative.

This comes as the U.S. Senate is once again taking up the so called, “Level-Field” bill, that will require the Pentagon to factor in the impact of the subsidies in its evaluation of Boeing’s KC-767-based and EADS A330 MRTT-based offerings in the $35 billion KC-X contest.

Many who have watched KC-X closely didn’t think the proposed law would have a chance of getting passed before the Air Force choses its new tanker (something that may happen in the coming weeks).

A similar bill was first introduced in late Spring of last year when it appeared the service would award a contract sometime between September and mid-November.

Oh how things have changed. The Air Force has repeatedly delayed the contract award so that it can be as confident as possible that this round of the contest has been run by the book.

Remember, in 2008, Boeing successfully protested the service’s award of KC-X to EADS, claiming that the requirements laid out in the RfP for that contest weren’t clear enough. That came after the whole Darleen Druyun tanker leasing affair.

Hopefully this bill won’t delay the contest any longer. The KC-135 is great, but as we all know, the oldest are 50 years old and desperately need replacement.  So both sides received subsidies. Fine, lets just move on with the contest.

  • So let me get this straight – the WTO (and by extension, Europe) is upset that Boeing has a superior operating environment?

    This is getting insane. What ever happened to shopping on the basis of the best product and the best price. It’s not a jobs program!

    • Justin H

      You are right. The WTO is pretty much run by the Europeans.

  • brian

    Since when is a tax break a “subsidy”? Does Europe really contend that letting someone keep their own property a “gift from the government”? Oh wow thank you Mr. tax man for letting me keep my own toothbrush! I don’t anything, it all belongs to the crown!

    Talk about twisting words until they mean nothing. The fact is, is that the Airbus at its current sales price is unprofitable without European taxpayers kicking in the doe. Those “subsidies” the Euros are yapping about are only applicable if Boeing makes money. So they first have to make a profit, unlike EADS which can’t compete on price, or keep a refueling boom attached to their plane. Unfair americans and there unfair “Welding” advantage.

    Now yes Boeing does get research grants, because Boeing is often asked to develop new things as a service to the government (so does EADS). Sometimes this technology ends up for civilian uses like the Internet, but this is nothing the wholesale funding of R&D and Manufacturing for their civilian fleet that EADS gets. Its ridiculous to compare the 2 companies in this way.

    • diminutive

      >Since when is a tax break a “subsidy”?

      Assume two producer, X & Y Corps. They begin with a similar tax level, say, 25%. If X Corp lobbies the government to reduce its taxes to 15% while Y Corp stays at 25%, it’s clearly the case that the government is favoring X Corp.

      If Washington State tells Boeing “locate in Washington and we will exempt you from 400m in taxes” it is a subsidy and identical to simply giving Boeing 400m dollars.

      Tax expenditures are still expenditures.

      • brian

        Assume 2 women Lisa and Beth. Lisa sells her body to men on the street corner, Beth simply goes to hotel bars to hook up with traveling married business men for fun. They both are tramps, but only one is a whore.

        “Tax Expenditure” is a phrase like “unpaid whore” in this situation. It is contradicts itself. If the state of Foo says I will give company Bar $400 Million, then the state of Foo is giving Company Bar $400 Million irrespective of the taxes it collects. It is a gift of the state from the pockets of others living in the state. If Foo says, hey if you agree to produce your Widgets in this state I won’t raid your PROFITS for $400 Million then that is not some evil plot to rob the state but simply a bargain the state makes, because the amount of money it would collect overall in taxes are far less than if Company Bar made its widgets elsewhere in a lower taxed jurisdiction. The reality is that State of Foo knows it won’t get that $400 Million no matter what because no sane corporation would invest 10’s of billions there just to have the Foo raid their property. So Foo says “F*&^ it, Just invest your Billions here and we won’t tax you what you would never pay anyway”.

        Why anyone takes those scumbags at the WTO seriously is beyond me. I personally think they are the take from EADS. Who knows, EADS might even be writing those payoffs off of its taxes as Europe allows. (Know thats a real “tax subsidy”, rewarding people to spread corruption)

    • Jeff

      A tax break given in exchange for a specific action is the definition of a tax subsidy. From the WTO perspective, an unfair subsidy is any money given as financial assistance in which the purpose is to allow improved competitiveness by the domestic company agianst foreign import.

      • brian

        No a “tax subsidy” would be taking some of my hard earned income and giving it to some welfare queen popping kids out she can’t support because of her crack addiction. Thats rewarding someone for a specific act.

        Whats going on here is the government is punishing people for not building planes by taxing them at higher rates for their income. But for any of this to be applicable, they have to make a profit. The WTO should be objecting to the US and local government punishing companies engaging in lawful commerce by taxing them at higher rates than favored industries as we should all be paying the lower rates.

        But what the WTO is doing here is trying to equivocate between a true Subsidy and letting people keep their own property. The 2 are not equivalent, one makes a gift of another’s property such as the case is with EADS and the other the government is letting Boeing KEEP THEIR OWN PROPERTY.

        I know this is a difficult concept to understand, that individuals can own property including the means of production, and that in and of itself is not a generous bequeath of the government but simply the natural order of things. The government takes property rights, but it is not the source of property rights.

  • William C.

    Now what? We hit our heads on a brick wall while waiting for another several months sorting out some other type of complaint.

  • Oblat

    Many military socialists are there for the very reason of escaping globalization and the increased competition it brings. The theory was that because nobody else was spending like drunken sailors it didn’t actually matter if the industry was a disaster zone of corruption and incompetence run apparatchiks that would feel more than comfortable in Soviet Russia.. It was a cozy place sheltered from the chill winds of competition.

    But then two things happened firstly the easy money was gone and American taxpayers are pushing two to one to end the free ride for the military. Secondly China’s exponential growth started to get noticed. Suddenly it mattered if the tankers were the best we could get and not just easy money for a Boeing that is badly stumbling in the commerical world.

    Anybody really think that Boeing will have to pay the government back $ if it delivers after 7 successive delays the way Boeing has to pay it’s commercial customers? Of course not it will still make a profit – the whole objective of the contract is to avoid having to deliver on time and on budget.

  • Curt

    “Remember, in 2008, Boeing successfully protested the service’s award of KC-X to EADS, claiming that the requirements laid out in the RfP for that contest weren’t clear enough.”

    To be fair, the Boeing never claimed and the GAO never found the solicitation selection criteria was confusing. The GAO agreed with Boeing when they found that the Pentagon
    1. Miscalculated the results, using EADS info to calculate some of the Boeing scores and vice a versa. In other words sloppy accounting or intentional deception depending on your viewpoint.
    2. did not follow the published selection criteria in awarding the contract. They based their decision on criteria that was not in the solicitation.

    The GAO recommended re-evaluating the award using the published criteria and awarding the contract in 2008. It was the USAF and DoD that decided to do it all over again.

  • Justin H

    This should have been a no bid contract, which we’ve already done before. Canada just did it with the F-35. It should have just been given to Boeing from the start.

    • Jeff

      I think there is something to be said for this mind set but it comes down to the numbers. In pursuing the “contest” did we spend more time, energy, and money than the value od what Boeing would have been given beyond what their current bid is? Did we save anything or did we end up with a better product faster?

      An industry is healthy when its flush with cash; in the long run does is it beneficial to diminish the profits of an industry that needs that money when we expect them to independently innovate?

    • mat

      As for no bid that works both ways as US expects to sell thousands of F35 and other planes to foreign buyers it has to allow others to compete for US orders otherwise you can buy F35 just for US forces probably at no less than 200mio$ a piece with any real reduction in numbers built.

  • Oblat

    Many military socialists are there for the very reason of escaping globalization and the increased competition it brings. The theory was that because nobody else was spending like drunken sailors it didn’t actually matter if the industry was a disaster zone of corruption and incompetence run apparatchiks that would feel more than comfortable in Soviet Russia.. It was a cozy place sheltered from the chill winds of competition.

  • tribulationtime

    Premio!! tanto joder conque EADS era subsidiada y por eso era más barata…..Larga Vida a La…

  • Old_Bear

    Er, guys, may I just point out that Airbus is selling a lot airliners than Boeing at the moment, yes a lot of it may be down to better deals, but mostly it is down to what is the best aircraft for the job. The reason that the USAF went for the Airbus rather than Boeing the last time, was that the Airbus could carry more fuel.
    As for the flame war over the subsidies, what it boils down to was that Airbus got the money from the European Union up front (because it is a neo-socialist organisation), while Boeing got the money from the US Government through the backdoor.
    If you want to have a good laugh go and look up the political outrage of the US Congress in the mid 1950’s when Boeing had the audacity to misuse Government funds in converting it’s design for the 717 Tanker aircraft (KC-135) into a passenger jet, the 707, or acuarately designing at the same time.
    Major political furfight that was.

  • jsallison

    Actually, no. We would get less defense because the waste would continue.

    Here’s our requirements for piece of equipment X. No one gets one f’n dime until we have a working prototype in hand and whoever best meets the specs gets the contract. Now, is that so f’n hard? Just how many flag rank powerpoint rangers does it take to make that happen? Bueller?