They don’t call her the Senator from Boeing for nothing… 
3-18-08

By KATHY MULADY
P-I REPORTER
Awarding a $35 billion Air Force refueling tanker contract to the parent of Airbus carries risks that will ripple far beyond the economic effect of sending tax dollars and jobs overseas; it also compromises national security, and gives away U.S. technology and capability, a gathering of aerospace suppliers told Sen. Patty Murray on Tuesday.Murray, D-Wash., said she would consider pursuing legislation aimed at changing procurement laws to keep production of military equipment within the U.S., and she asked for help in making her case to Congress. Her colleagues, she said, see the issue mainly in economic terms.“If the laws need changing, how do we do that, and how do we sell it in a global market?” she asked.The Air Force stunned the aerospace industry last month by announcing that a team of the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. and Northrop Grumman would get the contract to build the refueling tankers. The Boeing Co. has filed a protest of the decision.On Wednesday, Murray is meeting with labor leaders and workers at a rally near Boeing’s Everett plant, where the tankers would have been built, to protest the contract.“We need to have a serious conversation as a nation about what we lose,” Murray said Tuesday. “Not many are thinking deeply about the military security we are giving away.”Suppliers questioned plans to finish the planes in Alabama, “in a facility that doesn’t exist, by workers who don’t exist, with engineers who aren’t there.”They also questioned the effect of the heavier planes on runways and whether they would fit in hangars, how the planes will be maintained, where parts for repairs will come from, and how long it will take to get them.“Are they going to be waiting for parts from France?” asked Steve Smolinske, president of Rainier Rubber.And they wondered if foreign manufacturers would be required to operate under the same rules as the American suppliers.“Is the military going to do background checks on the workers?” asked Rosemary Brester, president of Hobart Machined Products.Another supplier said that at his company, national security rules are strict.“Some people in our organization can’t talk to other people, or be in certain parts of the building,” said Tom Welsh, with Valley Machine Shop in Renton. Suppliers questioned how the EADS-Northrop contract fits in with the Buy American Act that requires the government and its contractors to purchase American-made goods when available.Murray said a possible answer might be in legislation for the aerospace industry that is similar to the Jones Act for the maritime industry. The Jones Act of 1920, named after Washington Sen. Wesley Jones, limits the amount of repair and construction on U.S.-flagged ships that can be done overseas and regulates maritime commerce.P-I reporter Kathy Mulady can be reached at 206-448-8029 or kathymulady@seattlepi.com. 

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