“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Sunday, August 31, 2003


In January, Counterpunch's co-editor, Jeffrey St. Clair, wrote an article about Darleen Druyun. Druyun was an acquisitions official for the Air Force. She called herself the Godmother of the C-7, a Boeing aircraft that was perfectly expensive and unnecessary, and thus just the thing to order 100 billion dollars worth of. Except that 100 billion dollars is nothing if you can maximize it by, say, renting the aircraft to the Pentagon. As St. Clair pointed out, Druyun, who served under Clinton as well as Bush, did her best for Boeing. In my father's house are many rooms, Jesus said; a similar principle holds for Boeing with regards to Defense Department employees. As St. Clair reported, Druyun cashed in her chips, resigned from the Pentagon,and floated into a perth at Boeing:

Now she's [Druyun's] stalking bigger game: missile defense, a multi-billion dollar bonanza for defense contractors, with Boeing at the head of the trough."Ms. Druyun is now officially an employee of the company whose interests she so ardently championed while she was supposedly representing the interests of the taxpayers," says Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight. "This is one of the most egregious examples of the government revolving door in recent memory."Of course, plucking operatives from the halls of the Pentagon is nothing new for Boeing. Over the years, the company has festooned its corporate board and the halls of its lobby shop with a bevy of top brass.Recently, Boeing's board has boasted both former Defense Secretary William Perry and John M. Shalikashvili, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 2001, Boeing also hired Rudy de Leon, Clinton's Deputy Secretary of Defense, to run its Washington office. Although De Leon is known as a proud hawk and a masterful dealmaker, his hiring may have been a rare misstep for Boeing, since congressional Republicans howled that the company should have picked one of their own from the Pentagon's rolls.

Druyun's patriotic work in behalf of Boeing is now getting a little scrutiny. The story is in U.S. News, it is in Forbes, and it is in the Washington Post. Alas, the WP, DC's paper, is so weak about it that their report misreports Druyun's name, Darleen, as "Darlene." The deal of spending an extra 5 billion dollars renting supplier planes from Boeing through a financial entity controlled by Boeing has aroused the curiosity, and even the wrath, of a Senate Committee chaired by Bush's nemesis, Senator McCain. The committee has released certain documents:

"The documents also illustrate the integral role that Darlene Druyun, now a senior Boeing executive, played in formulating the lease deal while she was the Air Force's principal deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and management. In one exchange Boeing officials questioned how a change in the lease terms could provide Druyun "political cover. She apparently understands that this may not be the best business case.

"Committee investigators want to know whether Druyun improperly told Boeing that its competitor, Europe's Airbus Industrie, had submitted a bid of $5 million to $17 million lower per plane. An April 2002 e-mail exchange between two Boeing officials, which said Druyun had given the information to Boeing, was turned over to the Defense Department inspector general's office, a congressional source said.Boeing denied that it received proprietary information, and a spokesman for the inspector general's office declined to comment on whether it had begun an inquiry. Aircraft prices are widely available on the Internet, and the e-mail was distributed after the Air Force announced that it would negotiate a deal with Boeing, so the information did not help formulate their initial bid, industry officials said."

A story in Forbes about this same incident refers to US News, which has gone to some length to report on what should be a major scandal. Still, even the US News dares not tell the public what St. Clair revealed in January -- that not only are we dealing with greedy pigs, but that the greedy pigs are selling low quality goods. In other words, the aircraft could potentially endanger the lives of the soldiers this administration loves to death -- when it is photo op time.

Here's how stinky the deal is:

"Such complicated financing was alien to Air Force officials. Boeing's documents make clear that in crafting the financing plan, the Air Force played student to its contractor. "The USAF clearly does not understand financing and has asked for our help to educate them (in layman's terms)," wrote Robert Gordon, the vice president of Boeing Capital Corp., in an E-mail message in December 2001. Indeed, Gordon noted, an Air Force general "made a special comment to thank Boeing for all its work over the past months to try and help this leasing proposal make sense" to the government.

Investigators with the Commerce Committee, however, are not as awestruck. They are examining the financial vehicle that's the linchpin of the deal. "It's an Enron-like entity," says McCain. For one thing, U.S. News finds, there is a built-in conflict of interest in the arrangement because, documents indicate, it gives Boeing oversight of its own deal. Boeing and the Air Force have sold the deal to Congress as a way to save money, but lease terms mean it's impossible to say today how much the government will pay tomorrow. Actual lease payments will be set as planes are delivered, and if interest rates rise more than expected, the government's costs will go up. Boeing's price will also be adjusted up for inflation; Boeing says that's standard procedure. One clause requires the Air Force to pay more if its new tankers spend too much time in the air; the Air Force says the service has negotiated far more flight hours than it will use. Still, Boeing and the Air Force can't shake the criticism that taxpayers are the losers. Last week, the Congressional Budget Office weighed in, saying that leasing the 100 planes will cost as much as $5.6 billion more than if they had been purchased. Boeing rejects the findings as flawed."

According to Druyan's official biography, she started out in D.C. as the procurements person for NASA. In other words, she's been raised in the finest school of boondoggling in the country. A natural, then, to suck up the gravy at Boeing. While it is nice that the mainstream press is coming to this story at the last minute, we do wonder why they couldn't have leaped in January. Or would that have sounded, hmm, unpatriotic?

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