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Outsourcing U.S. security

A big Air Force contract that involves a foreign entity passes muster on the merits.

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The US Air Force has hit severe turbulence over its awarding of the largest Pentagon contract by far involving a foreign entity. Some in Congress call it an outsourcing scandal. Boeing, the loser, may contest. Time to pull up to where the skies are calmer and survey this from there.

The contract is big: up to $40 billion to a partnership between America's Northrop Grumman and the parent company of Europe's Airbus, called EADS. It will buy 179 tanker aircraft to do midair refueling of other military planes. Today's fleet of 600 tankers, supplied by Boeing, dates to the Eisenhower era and needs replacing.

That lawmakers are trying to reverse the deal is understandable. America has lost more than 3.5 million manufacturing jobs in the past decade and at some point that decline may affect the nation's ability to ensure its own defense.

Indeed, America's military manufacturing capability has shrunk as the Pentagon has opened up more bids to US military allies in order to keep procurement competitive. But at the same time, American companies are working with foreign ones in Britain, Italy, and other allied countries to build helicopters, air-defense, and transport planes.

Is this latest deal one contract too many? Or is it that Boeing has powerful friends in Congress?

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