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President Bush's Support of Tanker Lease Proposal as an Insult to the Taxpayers

September 17, 2003 


President Bush has just announced his support of an Air Force proposal to lease 100 Boeing 767 tanker aircraft - apparently rejecting a compromise plan offered by Senators John Warner and Carl Levin to reduce the scope of the lease and exposure to taxpayers.

"This is the most obscene example of corporate welfare in recent memory," said POGO's Executive Director Danielle Brian. "My head is spinning. First, the excuse for this plan was as a post 9/11 bailout for an already prosperous defense contractor, then it was billed as a national security issue. Now, the President is apparently supporting the plan as a jobs program."

The tanker lease plan, which POGO has been investigating for the past 18 months, would cost the taxpayers $5.7 billion more than an outright purchase of the aircraft, according to the Congressional Budget Office. However, a Sept. 4, 2003 compromise of Senators Warner and Levin would scale back the number of aircraft to be leased from 100 to 25. But only after the following are completed: an analysis of alternatives to the leasing deal including consideration of other types of planes, a corrosion study of the current tanker fleet, and a GAO study of pricing data produced by the Institute for Defense Analysis. IDA said the tankers should cost $10 million less than the Air Force has agreed to pay Boeing.

President Bush's statement in support of the 100 tanker lease is obviously a response to months of behind-the-scenes lobbying by Boeing executives and a concerted effort by the company to contribute large sums to the campaign funds of key Senate and House leaders.

"This is the latest desperate effort by the politically-connected Boeing Company, one of the most profitable companies in the U.S.," Brian said. "This issue will come down to a litmus test for the Senate. A vote for this proposal is a vote against the taxpayer."

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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