News Releases

Senator Murray Delivers Speech Supporting Boeing Bid for Critical Air Refueling Tanker Contract

Oct 31 2007

In speech Murray calls Boeing "the best company for the contract"

Video - Murray talks about the tanker contract

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered a speech at the KC-767 Advanced Tanker Supplier Conference in Washington, D.C., about the importance of giving Boeing the opportunity to build and supply the Air Force's next generation of aerial refueling tankers.

"When I visit Fairchild Air Force Base and talk with the men and women who fly these tankers – and with their families, who worry about their safety – I want to be able to look them in the eye and say they’re getting the most advanced and safest equipment that their grateful nation can provide," Murray said in her speech. "Boeing has the best planes, the best workers, the best suppliers – and it’s best positioned to deliver a tanker that will ensure our airmen and women can do their jobs. It’s time to get those tankers into the hands of our service men and women who need them."

The full text of Murray's speech follows:

Thank you, Jim.

And thanks to the tremendous Boeing team from Washington state.

Good morning to all of you. 

Tanker Contract Will Help Ensure a Healthy Aerospace Industry

I’m excited to be here today because we share the same interest in making sure the aerospace industry stays strong and competitive and continues to grow. 

A healthy aerospace industry is vital to my state’s economy, our nation’s economy, and to our national security. 

In Washington state, the aerospace industry means Boeing and its suppliers.  On July 15, 1916, Bill Boeing started his airplane company in Seattle.  Since that day, Boeing and Washington state have shared the ups and downs of the commercial aerospace industry.

Today, Boeing employs more than 66,000 people in my home state.  There are also hundreds of suppliers in Washington, who generate billions of dollars of business. 

I know some of them are here with us today, and I want to welcome you.

This is an important time for Boeing – and for Washington.

In a few months, the Air Force will decide which company will manufacture the next generation of military air tankers.  It will choose between Boeing and the French company Airbus, which partnered with Northrop Grumman to bid on the contract.

I’m proud that the process for selecting a company to supply these tankers has been a truly open one.  And I’ll talk more about that in a few minutes. 

But I’m also proud to say that I believe Boeing has proven that it’s the best company for the contract. 

Boeing has the best planes, the best workers, the best suppliers – and it’s best positioned to deliver a tanker that will ensure our airmen and women can do their jobs.

It’s time to get those tankers into the hands of our service men and women who need them.

The Tanker is Vital to our Military

Let me stop here and explain that the air tanker contract isn’t just important to me because Boeing is a major employer and a major corporate partner in my home state. 

While I believe it’s important to support an American company – and a Washington state company –the most important thing is that the taxpayers – and especially our airmen and women – get the best tanker possible.

Every day – all around the world – our service members are risking their lives for our security.  And I’ve made it a priority to make sure our troops have the best equipment and services we can give them.

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Veterans Affairs Committee, I’m doing everything I can to make that happen.

I don’t need to tell you how important these tankers are to our military. 

  • Experts have called the war on terror “the first aerial tanker war” because of the support provided by these enormous gas stations in the sky.  
  • Here at home, American skies were kept secure for months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, thanks in part to tankers, which supplied fuel in mid-air for military jets patrolling the country.  That was made possible in part by the wing from Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Washington. 
  • And the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – Army General Hugh Shelton – once said that the motto of the tanker and airlift forces should be, “Try fighting without us.”

 
So air tankers are vital to making sure our military stays strong.

Our current fleet of KC-135 tankers – which Boeing manufactured – have served us well.  So well, in fact, we have squadron pilots now whose fathers and even grandfathers flew KC-135s.

But our current fleet is old – the average age of the KC-135 is 45 – and the planes are in the shop for repairs too often.  We need to replace the tanker fleet now, and with the best planes we can get.

When I visit Fairchild Air Force Base and talk with the men and women who fly these tankers – and with their families, who worry about their safety – I want to be able to look them in the eye and say they’re getting the most advanced and safest equipment that their grateful nation can provide.

Boeing is the company that can do that.  And as suppliers, you will be there to help them.

Boeing Designed the Best Plane for the Job  

When the Air Force set out its requirements for a new tanker, Boeing listened. The competitor – Airbus – has no experience building this kind of tanker.

That company has recently tried to tout themselves as providing planes that are “bigger and better”.  But the Air Force didn’t say it wanted a bigger plane.  It wants a plane that meets its needs.

Boeing drew on its 75 years of experience, and designed the modern, efficient KC-767.  It’s tailor-made for the Air Force, and has already performed a successful in-flight refueling this year.

The KC-767 represents the best of what American innovation and hard work can do. It represents what the taxpayer needs – and what our service men and women deserve.

It Would be a Mistake to Buy From a Foreign Company

So I believe that Boeing has the best product.

But I also think it would be a huge mistake to select a foreign company for this contract.

Airbus has a history of not fighting fair on trade.  Three years ago, I delivered a major speech on the Senate floor to sound an alarm and explain that Airbus was waging an unfair lobbying campaign, trying to convince the U.S. government that it is essentially an American company.

Let me be clear – that is still a concern.  Yes, Airbus has partnered with Northrop Grumman – but if Airbus is selected for the tanker contract, it will create only half as many American jobs as Boeing. 

And much of the initial work would be done overseas.

I have – for years – urged the Administration and Congress to fight to save America’s aerospace industry from a European takeover.

For decades, Europe has provided subsidies to prop up Airbus and its parent company, EADS.  Those subsidies have created an uneven playing field and have led to tens of thousands of layoffs here in the United States.

We’ve demanded that Europe stop the subsidies and play by the rules. 

So as suppliers, I think you would agree that it would be a big step in the WRONG direction for the United States to:

  • On the one hand – accuse Europe of improperly subsidizing its aerospace industry.
  •  While – on the other hand – purchase military tankers from Airbus. 

Split-buy Purchasing Would be a Mistake

Moreover, Airbus and its supporters have tried to argue that the military should change the contract terms and purchase planes from both companies.

I think it’s also unfortunate that some of my colleagues in Congress have been persuaded by this and want to use the split-buy purchasing process. 

This fall, I wrote to the secretary of the Air Force – with 13 other Senators joining me –  to explain why that last-ditch effort would be a bad idea.  And I’ll continue to fight against the split-buy if any of my colleagues pursue it.

Buying two kinds of tankers would mean dramatically increased costs for research and development, maintenance, training and infrastructure.

But it also would do something else that I think is dangerous to the future of the aerospace industry – it would give Airbus a strong foothold as a U.S. defense contractor.

Choosing Boeing is Also the Best Decision for Our Economy

I have said – time and again – that it’s important to our country that we not surrender our aerospace leadership. 

Once our plants shut down, and our skilled workers move on to other fields, you can’t recreate that overnight.

It took us 100 years to build our aerospace leadership, and we need to defend it.

Just look at the impact this contract will have in our communities.

Boeing’s 767 is truly a national plane. 

Although Boeing was started in Seattle, it now reaches nearly every state in the nation. 

The 767 would support more than 44,000 American jobs – including 300 suppliers – in 40 states. 

About 9,000 of those would go to Washington state, for an annual economic impact of $400 million.

These aren’t just run-of-the-mill, low-wage manufacturing jobs either.  These are high-wage, high-skill jobs.  And we need to keep them in America by keeping our aerospace companies – and their suppliers – strong.

Conclusion

So, as I’ve said, this is a very important time for us all.  The tanker contract isn’t just one defense contract – it’s a key piece of our national and economic security.

My goal is to provide the brave men and women of our military with the equipment and the help they need to finish their mission safely and successfully. 

This is something our Air Force needs.

It’s something our economy needs.

And you’re an important part of that.

We want the best plane, and we want it into the theater as soon as possible.

With your hard efforts, and with honest American ingenuity, we will do that.