Lawmakers Applaud Boeing Protest

Washington state lawmakers and governor praising Boeing's decision to protest a $35 billion tanker contract awarded to the parent company of European plane maker Airbus.

WASHINGTON (AP) —Washington state's lawmakers and its governor are praising Boeing's decision to protest a $35 billion tanker contract awarded to the parent company of European plane maker Airbus.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called the Air Force decision to award the contact to the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. and its U.S. partner, Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman, ''shortsighted.''

The Air Force decision to ''place the future of America's aerospace industry and national security in the hands of an illegally subsidized foreign competitor is simply wrong for America,'' Murray said Monday.

Boeing said it will file a formal protest Tuesday with the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress. Boeing's chairman and CEO, Jim McNerney, said in a statement that the Chicago-based aerospace company ''found serious flaws in the process that we believe warrant appeal.''

Democratic Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., whose district includes the Boeing plant where the refueling planes would have been built, said the exclusion of Boeing was ''not only the wrong choice for our U.S. military, but for our nation's trade policy and our American economy.''

Larsen, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he will ask Pentagon officials about their decision to choose the Northrop-EADS team, noting that the United States filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization in 2004, alleging that Airbus unfairly benefited from European subsidies. Airbus in turn has argued that Boeing also receives government support, mostly as tax breaks.

''I have serious concerns about the implications of this decision for U.S. trade policy,'' Larsen said.

While the WTO case is still pending, ''another branch of the Bush administration is sending a conflicting message by giving European governments a $35 billion reward for their unfair trade practices,'' he said. ''The Bush administration is on a collision course with itself on this issue, and needs to explain to Congress how they plan to avoid a crash.''

Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., said Boeing's decision to protest the contract was the right one.

''The GAO is beyond reproach and its findings will tell us whether the selection process was fair or tainted,'' McDermott said.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire said she too supported Boeing's decision.

''Boeing and its work force are the best manufacturer of airplanes in the world,'' she said in a statement. ''It is an outrage at a time when the national economy is weakening, American jobs would be sent overseas. The high-wage jobs this contract would offer are precisely the type of jobs we need to keep in America.''

Murray, meanwhile, called on Congress to look into the ramifications of the Air Force's decision on national security and the U.S. economy.

The award to replace 179 air-to-air refueling tankers is the first of three major Air Force contracts to replace its entire fleet of nearly 600 aging tankers and could be worth $100 billion over the next 30 years.
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