“Shocked” in Washington, “Mad” in Kansas

Lawmakers who supported Boeing in the great tanker contest met with Air Force officials to discuss the award to the rival Northrop Grumman/EADS team and came away still wanting answers to “a lot of tough questions,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) March 4. She called the decision “devastating news for Boeing, for American workers, and for America’s men and women in uniform.” About the meeting with USAF Monday, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas said: “I’m mad. We all came out of our meeting … with more questions than answers, and the answers we got lead to more questions.” Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) also wants more details, saying: “It will take Airbus longer to start up an assembly line than Boeing. And, it will take them longer to produce a viable plane. … If this decision holds, it will be at the cost of American jobs and American dollars, if not our national security.” Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) asserted that USAF is “taking a major step backwards,” considering the amount of aviation fuel it uses, because the “Boeing 767 burns 24 percent less fuel and would have saved taxpayers approximately $10 billion over the life of the tanker.” Murray, Brownback, Roberts, and Cantwell joined with Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne asking their assistance in speeding USAF’s debrief to Boeing. (see above) They wrote, “This report needs to be debriefed so the bidders, and in turn Congress and the public, can fully understand the rationale for the decision.” In a speech on the Senate floor, Murray left no doubt that she doesn’t think the Air Force can answer the “tough questions,” saying “there seems to be a real disconnect here,” considering the US is “hemorrhaging manufacturing jobs to foreign countries already” and a “Boeing 767 tanker would have helped stabilize and strengthen the American aerospace industry.”