U.S. Senator Sam Brownback today reacted to comments made by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and President Obama at a joint press conference yesterday.  Sarkozy stated that Airbus would enter a last-minute bid to build the KC-X aerial refueling tanker which will replace the Air Force’s aging fleet.
“This is wrong,” stated Brownback.  “It’s wrong to slow down this critical procurement process and it’s wrong to delay for a foreign company that receives illegal subsidies.  Our entire military relies on refueling tankers which were built in the 1950s.  It makes no sense to extend the deadline to allow a foreign consortium led by European governments to compete for an American refueling tanker.”
The Air Force is currently scheduled to purchase 179 refueling tankers beginning in 2011 to replace the aging fleet.  They are seeking to replace more than 500 Eisenhower-era KC-135s.  This month, the WTO issued a final ruling that the EU has illegally subsidized the development of numerous Airbus aircraft including the model Airbus hopes to offer for the tanker competition.
Brownback continued, "Delay is unacceptable and we cannot have different sets of rules for foreign and domestic competitors. EADS can either choose to bid or not, but it should not expect the United States for help them enter the competition.  Dragging out this competition further hurts our warfighters and costs the taxpayer. Changing deadlines would undermine the Department of Defense’s effort to make this competition fair for all parties involved.”
Today, Senators Brownback and Patty Murray (D-WA), along with five other Senators sent a letter to President Obama asking that the WTO final ruling declaring that Airbus received illegal government subsides be fully complied with to ensure a level playing field for American industry.  Earlier this month Senators Brownback and Roberts (R-KS) along with Congressman Tiahrt (R-Wichita) sent a letter to the Defense Department urging Secretary Gates to reject any lobbying by EADS to extend the deadline for accepting bids for the KC-X aerial refueling tanker competition.
Brownback concluded, “The Europeans need illegal subsidies to compete in the marketplace and now they are asking the U.S. government to subsidize their timeline.  Enough is enough and Congress will fight efforts to slow this down to appease European governments.”