News Releases

Murray Receives Commitment From Air Force Secretary for "Fair and Open" Tanker Competition, Continued Opposition to Dual Buy

Jun 04 2009

At Senate hearing, Murray also stresses importance of strong domestic industrial base, maintaining Fairchild Air Force Base

WATCH webcast of hearing – (Murray Q and A begins at 88:30)

LISTEN to Senator Murray Question Secretary Donley and General Schwartz

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) questioned Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz on the Air Force’s plan for a fair and transparent competition for aerial refueling tankers.  She also pushed them on the critical need to maintain a strong domestic industrial base to preserve our nation’s economic stability and military capability, as well as the need to maintain the strong and healthy tradition of refueling at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane.

Senator Murray, a senior member of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, was  an outspoken critic of the Air Force’s flawed decision to award the tanker contract to Airbus last year and spoke out on many of the competition’s inconsistencies. Senator Murray questioned Secretary Donley about this issue at today’s hearing:

On Fair and Transparent New Competition:

MURRAY:  “What can you tell about this competition process moving forward and what measures will be taken to prevent the claims of an unfair evaluation or the scales being tipped to one side or the other? Clearly this is a difficult process and we all want the best aircraft as soon as possible however I am adamant that the way forward on this is through a fair and transparent competition.  It’s good for the warfighter and it’s good for the taxpayer.”

SECRETARY DONLEY: “We are committed from the get-go to a fair and open competition, there is no doubt of that. We have taken measures inside the Air Force to strengthen our source selection process. Since the events of last summer we have increased our focus training on lessons learned from the two protests that were sustained last summer.”

ON DUAL BUY:

Senator Murray then asked about the viability of the dual-buy option for tankers, and Secretary Donley responded:

SECRETARY DONLEY: “We share the Secretary’s [Secretary of Defense Gates] view that a dual-buy would be more expensive for the taxpayer in at least three dimensions. It would require the development of two airplanes instead if one, we would end up with two logistical infrastructure processes in support of that effort instead if one, and in the near term especially, we are concerned about the impact of the Air Force’s budget and the Department of Defense’s budget generally by going to a dual buy approach,” said Secretary Donley. “This would double, almost, the tanker piece of the Air Force’s procurement program…and we think the dual award would not make sense.”

ON INDUSTRIAL BASE:

Murray is a leading advocate in the Senate for preserving a strong domestic industrial base. She pressed Secretary Donley on this issue at the hearing today:

MURRAY: “I am very worried about our domestic industrial base. I am worried about its long-term ability to provide our military forces with what they need to accomplish their national security missions. I want to make sure that we maintain a domestic industrial base that can respond to the on-going needs of our warfighters.”

“Can you tell me how you are taking into account the health and longevity of our domestic industrial base as you tackle acquisition reform in the Air Force?” Senator Murray asked.

SECRETARY DONLEY:  “No question that the department has in interest in tracking how industrial base issues get affected by departmental level decisions and making sure those are taken into account as we go forward.”

Senator Murray successfully included an amendment in the procurement reform bill signed into law last month that requires the Pentagon to report on the effects that canceling an acquisition program would have on the nation’s industrial base.

ON FAIRCHILD:

Senator Murray also discussed how Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane is uniquely postured to support the KC-X beddown, and questioned General Schwartz on the Air Force’s commitment to maintaining the base.

MURRAY: “We have two air wings who have a proud refueling history, a large runway and a strategic location for the execution of the global reach mission. During this last winter, one of Fairchild’s key training facilities had its roof collapse from the record setting snowfalls there.  And, even though its runway is the right size, it is due for some much needed maintenance and continued upkeep in order to be ready for KC-X.  Can you confirm for me that you will do everything needed to ensure Fairchild is ready to support the KC-X when the time comes?”

GENERAL SCHWARTZ: “Not a promise, but certainly Fairchild is an obvious candidate for early bed-down. There are others in the country as well…but Fairchild certainly is in the long term plan.”

Senator Murray also pushed Secretary Donley to maintain Fairchild Air Force Base’s 36th Rescue Flight which supports the 336th Training Group and the Air Force Survival School and has saved the lives more than 600 people during search and rescue missions in the states of Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Washington.