Patty in the News

Amid increasing speculation that EADS North America will win the U.S. Air Force's $35 billion aerial refueling tanker contract, Boeing-friendly senators Wednesday called for forcing the Pentagon to account for illegal subsidies in the competition.

A World Trade Organization panel ruled earlier this year that European nations illegally subsidized Airbus programs, including the A330, which is the basis for EADS North America's proposed KC-45 tanker. A separate WTO panel found in a confidential interim ruling that Boeing also received illegal subsidies, although those were reportedly much less than those that Airbus got.

"The simple truth is that we won't have an even playing field in this competition until the impact of illegal foreign subsidies are factored in," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a news release. "The U.S. government and the World Trade Organization have both come to the conclusion that these subsidies give Airbus a competitive advantage and that they have cost us American jobs. Especially in this economy, the Pentagon can't ignore these subsidies that leave American aerospace workers fighting an uphill battle."

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said: "We cannot have a foreign subsidized plane low-balling its bid in a competition for one of the largest defense contracts in U.S. history."

The Washington Democrats called for including a requirement to consider subsidies in the defense budget under consideration. Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, both R-Kan., Kit Bond, R-Mo., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. also signed the letter to Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin.

Here's the text of the letter:

Chairman Levin:

We write to express our strong support for language to ensure a fair competition for the KC-X Air Force tanker contract in the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act. Especially in this economic climate, Congress should act to protect American aerospace jobs from unfair competition and to restore fairness for our aerospace workers.

In particular, we urge you to include section 848 of H.R. 5136, which was passed by the House of Representatives on May 28, 2010. This section requires the Department of Defense to take into account the impact of illegal subsidies on the KC-X tanker competition. Section 848 requires the Department of Defense, in awarding that tanker contract, to consider any unfair competitive advantage aerospace companies may possess.

The House of Representatives has already demonstrated strong bipartisan support for this language. Section 848 passed in the House as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 410-8. We strongly urge you to retain section 848 in any final version of the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act.

Thank you for your continuing work on behalf of the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. We look forward to working with you in the days ahead to pass a defense authorization bill in this Congress that ensures a level playing field for the Air Force KC-X tanker contract.