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Gates to Murray on $35 Billion Tanker Contract: "I'm No Expert"

May 20 2008

Murray frustrated by lack of answers from Gates; Continued silence on numerous concerns over Pentagon's decision raises more red flags

Listen to Murray question Secretary Gates

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) questioned Defense Secretary Robert Gates on many of her concerns over the Pentagon's short-sighted decision to give a $35 billion air tanker refueling contract to Airbus - a foreign-owned and subsidized company with an unproven product. At today's hearing, Secretary Gates was able to provide few answers and little perspective on why his agency made this decision that could weaken the U.S. aerospace industry, threaten national security, mean significant cost overruns, and result in a less safe plane for our warfighters. 

"Secretary Gates is known in Congress as a straight shooter," Murray said following today's hearing. "However, today he conspicuously avoided answering the many glaring questions surrounding this contract decision. His testimony today will only raise more questions and red flags for Congress, our country's aerospace workers, and the many Americans who believe this is no time to outsource a $35 billion military contract."

During today's hearing Murray frequently discussed the role Congress will play in this contract decision. The Department of Defense (DOD) has maintained that cost, technology and capability were the only factors they considered in awarding the contract. Murray questioned how those factors were considered, but also discussed the additional considerations that she and her colleagues will look at.  

"In Congress we have a lot wider purview," Murray said. "We have the duty to do what DOD can't do. We have to look at unfair competition, we have to look at companies using illegal means to break into the U.S. defense and commercial market, we have to look at long term nation security implications, and we have to look at how this affects our industrial base and capability." 

Senator Murray has continually sought answers from Pentagon officials in Senate hearings since the Pentagon announced their decision in February. However, officials from the Pentagon's own Comptroller, to top National Guard and Reserve commanders, to top Defense construction officials have been unable to answer Murray's many concerns. 

Today’s hearing was of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee on which Murray sits.