THE BIG CONVERSATION
If at first you don't succeed, you'd better hope the GAO gives you a second chance.
Texas political officials breathed a collective sigh of relief on Monday as the Government Accountability Office overturned a decision that was threatening to cost a BAE Systems plant outside Houston a $2.6 billion Army truck contract — and Houston up to 10,000 direct and indirect jobs.
The Army announced last month that it would be taking its business to Oshkosh Corp. in Wisconsin — which bid approximately 10 percent below BAE. The move came as a surprise to many, including Texas’ congressional delegation.
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, whose district contains the plant, especially drew fire for being caught unawares.
The subsequent lobbying by Texas’ 34-member congressional delegation has been a major bipartisan effort — even bringing together potential general election opponents Houston Mayor Bill White and U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Dallas.
Hutchison and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-San Antonio, have been playing hardball in Washington. As noted in the Houston Chronicle, they “warned Army Secretary John McHugh that they might block Senate confirmation of the Army's next procurement officer, retired Army Lt. Gen. Malcolm Ross O'Neill, to serve as assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, unless the Army reconsiders its initial contract decision in light of ‘clear irregularities’ with the bidding process.”
It should be noted that the GAO, which declined to disclose its reasons for overturning the decision, is an independent office that does not weigh the concerns of Congress in its decisions.
Texas is not out of the woods yet. The whole process begins anew. The bids, including one by Illinois-based Navistar Defense, will be reviewed again — with no guarantee that Texas will come out on top this time.
• Goodbye Randall Frost, Hello Dr. Nizam Peerwani. The Tarrant County medical examiner, Peerwani, has been appointed to the Texas Forensic Science Commission by Gov. Rick Perry. In October, Bexar County’s chief medical examiner, Frost, stepped down after less than a month on the job. The commission has been the subject of great controversy due to the governor’s decision to replace key members immediately before a review of the controversial Cameron Todd Willingham case was set to occur.
• Hank Gilbert may have thought his days of battling Kinky Friedman were behind him when he dropped from the governor's race to run for ag commissioner. Then, Friedman announced an identical move on Monday. “I’m not really dropping out, I’m just changing course here,” said Friedman. His once and future opponent, Gilbert, released a statement, saying, "Here we have a candidate who is running for office — any office — solely because he wants to promote his books and personal appearances."
• The state’s youngest current legislator, State Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, filed for re-election on Monday. In the general election, he will face the victor of a primary battle being waged by Republicans Jay Kleberg, Rene Diaz and Dee Margo.
• A major Tea Party event has been scheduled for next month in San Antonio. The National Conservative Symposium, as it is being called, will be held Jan. 22-24 at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa. It will feature such speakers as Gov. Rick Perry, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, television host Sean Hannity.
“If they're going to lose money, then let them do it in Texas instead of in Las Vegas," — Farouk Shami, Democratic gubernatorial candidate, on developing Galveston into an entertainment and gambling center.
• State Rep. Terri Hodge prepares for her toughest primary battle yet — The Dallas Morning News
• Texas cuts costs amid prison reform — Houston Chronicle
• State agency debuts Web site to track Barnett Shale air quality test results — Fort Worth Star-Telegram
• Texas Transportation Commission examining possibility of taxing drivers by the mile — Waco Tribune-Herald
• Hutchison and Perry compare each other to Democrats — Texas Politics