A proposed defense contract to build a new military jumbo jet could have a significant impact on Iowa, according to several state labor leaders and elected officials who held a teleconference today. The Pentagon is considering awarding the contract to either U.S. based Boeing or a French company, EADS.
Mark Smith, president of Iowa AFL-CIO, says if Boeing wins the contract for the K-C-767 tanker, it would mean hundreds of new jobs in Iowa. Smith says: "Iowa is in a perfect position to benefit if the manufacturing takes place within our borders. Rockwell-Collins, based in Cedar Rapids, will produce navigation and communications avionics for the tanker. Boeing will also utilize three other suppliers in Iowa. Alcoa in Bettendorf, Carlton Life Support Systems in Davenport and Datalink Solutions in Cedar Rapids."
The overall contract is worth 40-billion dollars but Smith says it would translate to a 60-million dollar economic impact in Iowa. State Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, says it’s unthinkable that the U.S. military would consider sending such an important contract to a European company and not have this tanker built in America.
"We need to stop outsourcing jobs for our military production," Hoag says, "it’s estimated that this project alone would produce 1,600 jobs or more in Iowa and approximately 44,000 jobs in America. It’s not only about the jobs. It’s also about supporting innovation and long-term technology development here in Iowa and in the United States and it’s supporting the long-term national security interests of the United States."
A decision is expected on the tanker contract early next year. Hoag says he hopes concerned Iowans will take note of this opportunity and let decision-makers in Washington D.C. know how they feel. Hoag says: "Both Governor Culver and Congressman Loebsack have written to the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and I think what Iowans need to do is make sure that the rest of the congressional delegation has done what Congressman Loebsack has done and we just need to bring some pressure. This is really a litmus test for American jobs and for American national security."
Tanker aircraft are used for refueling other aircraft in mid-air. State Representative Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, is a former Air Force officer and says tanker aircraft are a vital part of our nation’s defense system. Paulsen says: "We cannot depend on another country to provide this particular mission. Global reach, global power. This is what permits the United States Air Force to do that." He says if Boeing wins the contract, "It’s my understanding that 85-percent or something just in excess of that would be produced within the United States."
Other speakers included Cedar Rapids Mayor Kay Halloran and Jerry Vuichard, head of IBEW Local 1362. The new tanker would eventually replace the K-C-135, an aircraft flown by the 185th Air Refueling Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard in Sioux City. A full-page ad about the jet contract, paid for by Rockwell-Collins and Boeing, is appearing this week in several Iowa newspapers.