A storm is brewing on Capitol Hill, one the likes of which hasn’t been seen since 2006, when the Bush administration secretly signed off on a deal with Dubai Ports World to allow that foreign firm to manage six American ports. Dubai Ports World was forced to sell the contract due to the unprecedented adverse public backlash the news generated, which subsequently fostered congressional opposition as well. The storm currently brewing is a controversy also with national security aspects.
The Air Force has awarded European-based Northrup Grumman a $40 billion contract to build a much-needed fleet on in-flight refueling tankers — and Congress wants to know why. Why has a national defense contract been given to a foreign company? Why does the Air Force believe that awarding a national defense contract to a foreign company is not a possible national security problem? With the current economic woes confronting the United States, would it not be more advantageous from a public relations perspective for a defense contract to remain with an American firm, even if that American company charged a few more dollars to fulfill the contract?
CNN reported Friday on “Lou Dobbs Tonight” that the Air Force awarded the contract to Northrup Grumman EADS (Airbus) because the European company presented a larger, less expensive aircraft than did Boeing, which had held the government contract for 50 years. Officials at the Pentagon said that those factors and the fact the European model could refuel more aircraft at one time, coupled with Northrup Grumman’s reputation for timely delivery, helped decide the issue. Some of the Air Force’s refueling tankers are 50 years old.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) told Kitty Pilgrim on CNN that the contract was a good one for the United States, that the aircraft would be assembled in a plant in his home state, that it would create jobs instead of ship them overseas, and that national security would not be a factor since the parts being manufactured overseas weren’t crucial and the aircraft being built was simply a reconfigured jet airliner, not a sophisticated fighter or bomber. Sessions also said that many parts for American military aircraft were contracted to manufacturers overseas.
Congress is in such an uproar that they scheduled a hearing Wednesday, March 5, for top Air Force officials to justify their actions before a House Appropriations subcommittee.
Sessions’ reassurances aside, there is little doubt in this writer’s mind that no job or manufactured part should be outsourced to another country if it involves a defense contract , even if it is for a vehicle that does not have classified military hardware as part of its design. It is amazing that the Pentagon, which is notorious for buying thousand-dollar hammers and million dollar bolts, should suddenly become fiscally conservative and worry about cost. The Pentagon could not be worried enough over a better designed Humvee to protect our troops out on patrol in Iraq, but they will choose a better designed “nonessential” aircraft to be manufactured.
This country has lost a quarter of a million manufacturing jobs in the past several years, some of them in the defense contracting sector, but the Pentagon is going to award a defense contract and send American tax dollars to EADS (Airbus) in Paris, use tax dollars to buy parts made in other countries, potentially cost 44,000 Americans their jobs, but justify it all by the fact that Northrup Grumman (which is based in Los Angeles) EADS will build the actual aircraft manufacturing plant in Alabama, creating 2000 jobs. A contract that could potentially be worth $100 billion dollars will for the most part be carried out by EADS (based in Paris), which means the money will be more than likely be banked in Europe.
And then there’s that troublesome little tidbit of knowledge: parts for vehicles used in the defense of the United States are being and are going to be manufactured in a foreign country. This reeks of national security breach. No foreign company (not even one that is half foreign) should have access to anything having to do with national security matters of the United States. All designs, actual parts, and assemblies of any kind that will be used in the defense of the United States should never be outsourced, nor should they ever be considered for outsourcing. And it is just bad business all around. If a foreign nation wants to know more about American military vehicles, let them get them the old fashioned way — espionage.
This deal not only lends itself to bad publicity and controversy, it sets a dangerous precedent. It should be placed on hold, stopped, and the contract placed up for bid among American companies.
“‘Lou Dobbs Tonight’ transcript: February 29, 2008,” CNN.com
Trish Turner, “Air Force-European Defense Contractor Deal Irks Many In Congress,” FOXNews.com