News Releases

Audio

Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered the following remarks on the floor of the Senate offering an amendment to S. 454, the Weapons System Acquisition Reform Bill. Senator Murray’s amendment will require the Pentagon to explain to Congress how their decisions affect good paying jobs and the long-term strength of our industrial base. The amendment will also help ensure that our industrial base is capable of meeting our national security objectives.

“Mr. President, there is no question that our country’s defense procurement process is broken.'

“At a time when the American people are tightening their personal budgets, making sacrifices, and focusing on the essentials – our defense acquisition programs continue to run up huge bills.

“Just this year the GAO reported that major defense procurement programs are $296 billion over budget.  And not only are they over budget, they are behind schedule. In fact, 95% of the DoD’s largest acquisition programs are on average two years behind schedule.

“Every extra day and every additional dollar spent on these systems is a step backward for our nation’s many other priorities.

“And as we tackle big challenges like getting our economy back on track, our health care system working for every American, and establishing a clean energy future, it’s time that we focused on trimming the fat in our defense budget.

“That is why I applaud Armed Service Chairman Levin and Ranking Member, Senator McCain for introducing this bold plan to bring about reform.  This bill recognizes that making changes to acquisition starts at the beginning of the process - with the proper testing, cost-calculating, and development procedures.  It also returns discipline to the process, by ensuring that rules limiting cost overruns are enforced.

“These and other badly needed steps will help to reform our system and return federal dollars to meet the challenges on the horizon.

“But this should only be the first step. Because the truth is that while today’s debate has been delayed for far too long, there is another hard conversation surrounding procurement that we have not yet even started. 

“And that is the conversation about the future of the men and women who produce our tanks, planes, and boats.  The skilled workers our military depends on – a workforce that is disappearing before our eyes.

“Mr. President, our government depends on our highly skilled industries - our manufacturers, engineers, researchers and our development and science base to keep the U.S. military stocked with the best and most advanced tools and equipment available.

“Whether it scientists designing the next generation of military satellites, engineers improving our radar systems, or machinists assembling our warplanes - these industries and their workers are one of our greatest strategic assets.

“But what if they weren’t available?  What if we made budgetary and policy decisions without taking the future needs of our domestic workforce in mind?

“It’s not impossible.  It’s not even unthinkable.   It’s happening.  And we need to have a real dialogue about the ramifications of these decisions before we lose the capability to provide our military with the tools and equipment they need.  Because once our plants shut down, once our skilled workers move to other fields, and once the infrastructure is gone – it can’t be rebuilt overnight.

“Mr. President, as a Senator from Washington state, representing 5 major military bases and many military contractors and suppliers, I am keenly aware of the important relationship between our military and the producers that keep them protected with the latest technological advances.

“I have also seen the ramifications of the Pentagon’s decisions on communities, workers, and families.  And as many of you know, I have been sounding the alarm about a declining domestic aerospace industry for years.  

“But, this isn’t just about one company, one state, or one industry. This is about our nation’s economic stability, skill base and future military capability.   We’ve watched as the domestic base has shrunk, as competition has disappeared and as our military has looked overseas for the products we have the capability to produce here at home.

“Many in this body have spent a lot of time talking about how many American jobs are shipped overseas in search of cheaper labor.   But we have not focused nearly enough attention on the high-wage, high-skill careers that are being lost to the realities of our current procurement system.

“That is why today I am introducing an amendment that will require the Pentagon to explain to this Congress how their decisions affect good paying jobs and the long-term strength of our industrial base. My amendment will also help ensure that our industrial base is capable of meeting our national security objectives.

“It took us a long time to build our industrial base. We have machinists who have passed experience and know-how down the ranks for 50 years.  We have engineers who know our mission and the needs of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.  And we have a reputation for delivering for our military.  But once our plants shut down, those industries are gone.

“We not only lose jobs, we lose skills and the potential ability to provide our military with the equipment to defend our nation and project our might worldwide. And preserving a healthy domestic base also breeds competition.  Something that’s good for innovation and ultimately, good for the taxpayer.

“So today, as we begin this very serious and very necessary conversation on procurement reform, we cannot afford to forget the needs of our industrial base.  We must consider how we achieve reform while continuing to support the development of our industrial base here at home.

“It calls for thoughtful planning and projection about who our future enemies might be and how they would try to defeat our nation.   It is critical that our country and our military to maintain a nimble and dynamic base.  Once a new threat is identified, a solution must be close at hand.

“The discussion we are having on procurement reform in the Senate is happening as our country faces two difficult, but not unrelated, challenges – winning an international war on terror and rebuilding a faltering economy.

“It would be irresponsible not to include the needs of our industrial base as we move forward.

“Unless we begin to address this issue now, we are not only going to continue to lose some of our best paying American jobs, we are going to lose the backbone of our military might.”