News Releases

Murray to Rumsfeld: Don't Allow Tanker Critics to Export Aircraft Manufacturing Jobs to Europe

Mar 22 2004

In letter to Defense Secretary, Senator says Airbus' corporate behavior undermines U.S. force, safety of our airmen and women

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today sent a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expressing concern over recent comments by Air Force Secretary James Roche regarding reopening competition for the Congressionally-approved lease of new Boeing 767 tankers for the U.S. Air Force. Murray, a sponsor of the lease, urged Rumsfeld to resist unnecessary delays that could jeopardize the safety of our troops and diminish the U.S. military's projection of force.



"I am deeply concerned about recent comments by Secretary James Roche regarding re-opening competition to supply aerial refueling tankers to the U.S. Air Force," Murray wrote to Rumsfeld. "The Air Force has already conducted a careful and open competition to build the required tankers...Rather than honorably accept the competition's outcome, Airbus has resorted to a campaign of distortion and half-truths in an effort to kill the proposed Air Force tanker lease program."



In testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee last September, Roche himself stated that the Boeing 767 was selected over European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) aircraft "as a result of its favorable design, schedule, risk factors, and proven boom technology."



"[Airbus'] actions are further delaying our ability to meet a key military requirement, and if successful, would result in the outsourcing of thousands of American manufacturing jobs to a foreign corporation that is unfairly subsidized by European governments and that unfairly competes with the only U.S. aircraft manufacturer," Murray said.



The full text of Murray's letter is attached.





March 22, 2004



The Honorable Donald Rumsfeld
Secretary
United States Department of Defense
The Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20330


Dear Secretary Rumsfeld:

I am deeply concerned about recent comments by Secretary James Roche regarding re-opening competition to supply aerial refueling tankers to the US Air Force.



The Air Force has already conducted a careful and open competition to build the required tankers. As Secretary Roche outlined in his testimony to the Senate Commerce Committee in September, Boeing won that competition based on the superiority of its design, technology, delivery schedule, and overall risk reduction plan. Although Airbus demanded that the General Accounting Office review that decision, the review was dismissed almost immediately as lacking merit. Rather than honorably accept the competition's outcome, Airbus has resorted to a campaign of distortion and half-truths in an effort to kill the proposed Air Force tanker lease program.



I have fully supported thorough reviews of all aspects of this program, and will continue to support constructive modifications based on recommendations from those reviews. However, I will not tolerate Airbus's attempts to undermine the program itself by forcing the government to revisit careful determinations about specific issues that have already been made, reviewed, re-reviewed, and validated by responsible government entities. The outcome of the initial tanker competition is one such issue that has been clearly and conclusively settled.



Airbus's corporate behavior on this matter cannot be tolerated by the US government. Its actions are further delaying our ability to meet a key military requirement, and if successful, will result in the outsourcing of thousands of American manufacturing jobs to a foreign corporation that is unfairly subsidized by European governments and that unfairly competes with the only US aircraft manufacturer. Such an outcome represents ill-conceived public policy, and will also unfairly punish the nearly 30,000 workers who will be employed should the Air Force tanker lease program proceed with a domestic manufacturer, as currently planned.



As you know, the average age of our existing tanker fleet is 42 years and one-third of our tanker fleet is unfit to fly at any given time due to mechanical and operational failure. KC-135's spend 400 days in major depot maintenance for every five years of service. Any unnecessary delay in replacing our aging tanker fleet puts in jeopardy our ability to meet critical air refueling and power projection requirements.







The Air Force's proposed tanker lease program is one of the most closely scrutinized programs ever undertaken by the Department of Defense. I support the DOD Inspector General's current efforts to provide an independent assessment of various aspects of this program. However, barring evidence of wrongdoing, it is critical that we proceed without delay to implement the Air Force tanker lease program and begin production of those aircraft here in the United States.



I know how committed you are to replacing our aging tanker fleet, and I know that meeting the demands of the critics of this plan has taken a toll. But you and I both know that many of these critics will not be satisfied until they stop this contract with the only American airplane manufacturer capable of producing a new generation tanker. We cannot allow that to happen.

Sincerely,

Patty Murray
United States Senator