News Releases

Murray: GAO Decision Won't Answer Pressing Questions on Tanker Contract

Jun 18 2008

Congress Must Demand Answers from Pentagon

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered a speech on the Senate floor in anticipation of a Government Accountability Office ruling on Boeing’s protest of a contract to build the next generation of aerial refueling tankers.  In February, the Air Force awarded the contract to the European company Airbus.  The GAO decision is expected by Thursday.

In her speech, Senator Murray reminded her colleagues that the GAO will answer only one over-arching question: Whether the Air Force followed the letter of the law when it awarded the contract.  It will not answer whether Airbus will supply the right plane for the military or the taxpayer.

Murray urged her colleagues to thoroughly examine the contract decision before it is finalized.

"This is also a contract that will affect our military – and our taxpayers – for decades to come," Senator Murray said in her speech.  "We have a responsibility to thoroughly evaluate whether we are buying the best plane.  And I hope my colleagues will continue to stand with me and ensure we get this contract right."

The following are Senator Murray’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, three months ago, the Air Force made a decision that will affect our military for decades.  It awarded one of the largest defense contracts in history to the European company Airbus.  As my colleagues know, I have numerous concerns about whether it’s in the best interests of our taxpayers – and our service members – for Airbus to supply the next generation of aerial refueling tankers.  Our tankers refuel planes and aircraft stationed across the world.  As long as we control the technology to build them, we control our skies and our security.  But the Pentagon has yet to justify its decision.

We Expect the GAO to Issue a Ruling

Now – within the next 24 hours, we expect the Government Accountability Office to issue a ruling on one over-arching question that has been raised about this contract.  And that is whether the Air Force followed the letter of the law when it made its decision.  It won’t answer whether Airbus will supply the best plane for the military.  And it won’t answer whether buying the Airbus tanker would do permanent harm to our aerospace industry.

So, Mr. President, I rise today to urge my colleagues to join me and continue fighting for those answers.  It’s just common sense.  Before we finalize a $35 billion contract:

  • We need to know why the Air Force chose a plane that is bigger and less-efficient than it asked for – one that can’t use hundreds of our runways, ramps, and hangars – and one that will cost billions of dollars more in fuel and maintenance. 
  • We need to know whether our government should buy a plane that even the Air Force says is less survivable – less able to keep the warfighter safe.
  • And we need to know what the effect on our economy and our national security will be if we turn this technology over to a company owned by foreign governments.

Mr. President, I was on the Boeing 767 line the day the Air Force announced its decision.  I’ll never forget the shock and dismay I saw on those workers’ faces.  After all, they have been making our nation’s refueling tankers for more than 50 years.  And they know how important they are to our military.  One woman rushed to down tell me that her son flies refueling tankers – and that she had wanted to be the one to make them.  She – and workers across the country – want to know why we would give this contract to a subsidized company controlled by foreign governments that want to put America’s aerospace industry out of business.

Mr. President, the United States Trade Representative is so concerned about the subsidies Airbus receives that it has brought a case against the E.U. before the World Trade Organization.  We need to know why in the world we would accuse Europe of unfair trade practices – and then hand Airbus a major piece of our defense industry.  And we need to know why our government would hand them the contract now.  In May, employers cut 49,000 jobs.  It was the largest one-month jump in unemployment in 22 years.    Yet the Administration wants to send 44,000 U.S. jobs overseas at a time when we are already hemorrhaging jobs here in this country.

We Have a Responsibility to Get the Best Plane

Mr. President – some of my colleagues have said that we need to move this process along quickly so we can get these planes into the hands of our Airmen and women.  I agree.  But this is also a contract that will affect our military – and our taxpayers – for decades to come.  We have a responsibility to thoroughly evaluate whether we are buying the best plane.  And I hope my colleagues will continue to stand with me and ensure we get this contract right.