Friday, May 16, 2008

Competitive bidding, with a congressional touch

The Philadelphia Inquirer today printed an entirely uncritical story on Lockheed Martin's latest coup: winning a $1.46 billion contract from the federal government to build new, more precise GPS satellites. Of course, being a local paper, the Inquirer highlights mainly the economic boon that the project will be to the region. It unflinchingly reports that US Rep. Patrick Murphy "worked to steer the project to his district as a member of the House Armed Services Committee," without mentioning the paradox of putting a contract up for competitive bidding and then having a member of a powerful House committee "steer the project to his district." 30% of the project will be completed in Lockheed Martin's facility Bucks County, and an unspecific portion will be built on Lockheed Martin's campus in King of Prussia – both in the suburbs of Philadelphia. I wonder why the 30% number for Bucks County was disclosed, but not the amount to be manufactured in King of Prussia? And why the Bucks County facility was so quick to remind the media that the jumbo-sized contract would create 400 or 500* new jobs? It just might have something to do with the fact that Democrat Patrick Murphy represents Bucks County in the US House!

* In case you were under the impression that Philadelphia had serious media organizations, think again: a very short article in the Philadelphia Business Journal says in the headline that the "[c]ontract will add 400 jobs to Lockheed Martin's Newtown plant," while in the article stating that "[w]inning the contract will mean the addition of 500 jobs." There is no explanation of the discrepancy, though the difference could be made up in facilities other than the one in Newtown Square.

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