Watch Senator Murray's Speech

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered a scathing speech on the Senate floor deriding the Air Force for awarding a $40 billion contract to build our military's aerial refueling tankers to the European company Airbus. 

The full text of Senator Murray's speech is below:

Mr. President, last Friday, I stood on the floor of the 767 line with workers in Everett, Washington, who put their heart and soul into making Boeing airplanes.  I was there as those workers learned that after 50 years the Air Force no longer wants them to build its refueling tankers.  

I saw the dismay in their eyes as they learned that their government is going to outsource one of the largest defense contracts in history – to the French company Airbus.  It was devastating news for Boeing, for American workers, and for America’s men and women in uniform.

Mr. President, today those workers are frustrated.  And they are angry – and not only because the tanker contract would mean 44,000 new American jobs in 40 states – including 9,000 in my home state of Washington.  They are frustrated and angry because their government let them down.  They are frustrated and angry because their government wants to take American tax dollars – their tax dollars – and give that money to a foreign company to build planes for our military.

And Mr. President, I am frustrated and angry too – because I can’t think of a worse time for a worse decision.

Tough Questions

Our economy is hurting.  We’re nearing a recession – if we aren’t already there.  Families are struggling just to get by in part because their factory jobs have been moved overseas.  This tanker contract wasn’t just one defense contract – it was a key piece of our national and economic security.  Boeing’s 767 tanker would have helped stabilize and strengthen the American aerospace industry. 

We are hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs to foreign countries already.  So I can’t imagine why – at a time like this – our government would decide to take 44,000 American jobs – good jobs – and give them to the Europeans.  Instead of securing the American economy and our military while we’re at war, we’re creating a European economic stimulus plan at the expense of U.S. workers. 

So Mr. President, I have a lot of tough questions I hope I’ll get answers to soon because there seems to be a real disconnect here.

1. How Can We Justify Outsourcing our Military Capabilities?

For one – how – while we are at war across the globe – can we justify putting a contract that involves military security into the hands of a foreign government?  Mr. President, outsourcing a key piece of our American military capabilities to any foreign company is a national security risk.

And Airbus and its parent company EADS have already given us plenty of reason to worry about how hard they will work to protect our security interests.  In 2005, EADS was caught trying to sell military helicopters to Iran, despite our concern about Iran’s support of terrorists in Iraq – and their efforts to develop nuclear weapons.  When confronted, Mr. President, EADS answered that “as a European company” they were “not supposed to take into account embargoes from the U.S.”

But that isn’t the only example.  

In 2006, EADS tried to sell C-295 and CN-235 transport and patrol planes to Venezuela – a circumvention of U.S. law.  Mr. President, we prohibit foreign countries from selling military products containing U.S.-made military technology to third countries without U.S. approval.  And part of the reason is because we want to keep our weapons from falling into the hands of countries like Venezuela, which have threatened U.S. security and mean us harm.  We can’t trust a foreign company to keep our military’s best interests in mind – especially one that has a history of trying to sell weapons and military technology to unfriendly countries.

But I think this raises a bigger question, too.  What happens if France – or Russia, which is pushing to increase its stake in EADS – decides it wants to slow down our military capacity because it doesn’t like our policies?  Do we want another country to have that kind of control?  I think that’s one of the questions we need to decide the answer to now.

2. Why Would We Choose an Unproven Plane?

Next, Mr. President, I want to know why the government would choose an unproven plane – using unproven technology – for a program that is so vital to our Air Force?  Tankers are so important to our military that Army General Hugh Shelton – the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs – once said that the motto of the tanker and airlift forces should be, “try fighting without us.”

Boeing has 75 years of experience designing planes for the Air Force.  Boeing’s tanker has been a reliable part of the U.S. military fleet for so long we have squadron pilots whose fathers and even grandfathers have flown them.  And Boeing could have started building the tanker immediately.

In Everett, the machinists call Airbus’s tanker a “paper airplane” because it only exists on paper.  Although Airbus has taken contracts for tankers, it hasn’t yet actually delivered a single refueling tanker – ever.  Yet the Air Force picked this plane to serve one of our military’s most critical functions.

3. Why Didn’t the Air Force Take Economic Impact into Consideration?

And finally – Mr. President, I don’t understand why the Air Force didn’t take jobs into consideration when it awarded this contract.  Yet that’s what they said on Friday.

The Air Force says simply that Airbus’s tanker will be an American plane with an American flag on it.  Well you can put an American sticker on a plane and call it American – but that doesn’t make it American made – especially if it was made in France.  It seems extraordinary to me that when the military is deciding how to spend 40 billion in American taxpayers’ dollars – it wouldn’t at least consider the effect that would have on the economy.

This isn’t just $40 billion either.  And it isn’t just 44,000 jobs.  It’s much bigger than that because this affects Boeing’s entire 767 line and all of the communities that depend on it.

In Everett, Boeing’s health touches everything: how much people spend on groceries and clothes; and whether people buy cars – or homes.  I think the Everett Herald put it in perspective on Saturday when it quoted the general manager of the local mall, who said:  “When Boeing sneezes, we all grab for the Kleenex.”  This loss will be felt in homes and businesses in communities throughout Washington state – and throughout the country – wherever there is a Boeing factory or a Boeing supplier.  

Now, my colleagues from Alabama defended Airbus on the floor yesterday.  They argued that this contract doesn’t outsource jobs.  But, Mr. President, we still don’t really know how many jobs Airbus might create in the U.S.  That hasn’t been decided.

The only things we know for sure are that much of the initial work would be done overseas and that today, the Europeans are celebrating.

Europe is Celebrating

The UK’s business secretary is already counting the jobs.  He said the contract, “will secure a number of years of work for the UK industry – benefiting not just Airbus UK, but also many other UK suppliers.”

And just listen to what they’re saying in Europe now:

The German government’s coordinator for the aerospace industry called Airbus’s win, “a massive breakthrough for the European aerospace industry on the key American market.” 

France’s Prime Minister said Airbus’s victory “testifies to the competitiveness of our industry and does honor to France and Europe.”

Mr. President, for decades, Europe has provided subsidies to prop up Airbus and EADS.  Airbus is a European jobs program that has created an uneven playing field and led to tens of thousands of layoffs here in the United States.  And Europeans are willing to do anything to distort the market and beat out Boeing.  The tanker they will supply for the military is a result of that effort.

I have – for years – urged the Administration and Congress to fight to save America’s aerospace industry from a European takeover in order to save American jobs.  We’ve demanded that Europe stop the subsidies and play by the rules.  Because of their illegal tactics the U.S. government has a WTO case pending against Airbus.  It took us 100 years to build our aerospace industry, and we have to defend it.  Once our plants shut down, and our skilled workers move on to other fields, you can’t recreate that overnight.

But what did the Administration turn around and do?  It handed Airbus $40 billion of our taxpayer dollars and 44,000 jobs – and did “honor to France and Europe.”

No Wonder Boeing’s Workers are Angry

Mr. President, it’s no wonder Boeing’s workers are angry.  “A slap in the face” is what one Boeing worker called it.  And so many others are asking, “How could this happen?”

Mr. President, I’m angry too.  And I’m looking forward to asking that question of the Administration.  Because the hard-working Americans in my state – and across the country deserve to know why this Administration has just given their jobs – and a contract involving a major piece of our military capability – to France.