Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Boyda: "Outsourcing Defense Hurts the U.S."

Addressing a grave problem that has only recently even been an issue, Congresswoman Nancy Boyda has a special column published in the DC newspaper Roll Call on Friday. In it, she makes all the points that needed to be made by Congress before they agreed to allow companies based in foreign nations to bid on Defense Department contracts.

Outsourcing Defense Hurts the U.S.
Special to Roll Call
Congresswoman Nancy Boyda

Rosie the Riveter. The indelible poster harkens a feeling of the American can-do attitude. More than 60 years ago, our nation’s industrial base answered the call to produce the airplanes, tanks and jeeps that our armed forces needed to win World War II. Their efforts helped to secure our country’s freedom and put the United States on the path to world leadership and economic success.

Since then, the U.S. military has fought in three major wars, and in every conflict the primary suppliers of military equipment were based right here in the United States. But today is different. The rise of globalization, questionable U.S. trade policies and the transformation of the American economy from manufacturing-based to service-based have increasingly led the United States to outsource our national defense.

On Feb. 29, the Air Force selected a European- based aerospace conglomerate, EADS, to build a next-generation air refueling tanker. I was and am still extremely troubled by this decision for several reasons. The negative effect on the economy of Kansas is enormous. As has been reported, the final step in manufacturing these aircraft would have been completed at the Boeing facility in Wichita. With the contract now set to be awarded to a foreign manufacturer, Boeing and other Kansas suppliers face the loss of billions of dollars and thousands of jobs.

In addition to the negative economic effect is the loss of skilled labor. Every contract sent overseas takes with it critical national defense skills — skills that will be very hard to replace once those employees walk out the door. Especially in a time of war.

The ability for America’s industrial base to quickly manufacture military goods is severely depleted. The conflict in Iraq is a perfect example of our difficulty to quickly mass-produce needed equipment. The Humvees that we sent to Iraq in 2003 were not up-armored. When the insurgency began to deploy deadly improvised explosive devices, the U.S. military needed several years to produce mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles in mass quantities. The delay cost too many soldiers their lives and undermined America’s counterinsurgency efforts. The United States simply did not have the manufacturing capability or the skilled work force needed to provide for our own defense.

Jobs here at home are important, but there’s another side of sending military contracts overseas that doesn’t get nearly the attention it should: illegal transfer of technology. With more and more components of military equipment made overseas, our national security could be in jeopardy if foreign-built technology is sold to the highest bidder.

In 1999, the Defense Science Board determined that the threat is very real. “From a long-term strategic standpoint, globalization’s most significant manifestation is the irresistible leveling effect it is having on the international military technological environment in which DOD must compete. ... The technology DOD [anticipates being able to leverage most] to maintain military dominance is that which the United States is least capable of denying its potential competitors. Access to commercial technology is virtually universal, and its exploitation for both civil and military ends is largely unconstrained. ... Indeed, owing to the proliferation of military technology, the commercialization of former military-specific technology, and the increasing reliance of militaries worldwide on commercially developed technology, and the general diffusion of technology and know-how, the majority of militarily useful technology is or eventually will be available commercially and/or from non-U.S. defense companies.”

The trends noted by the DSB haven’t slowed down. The Department of Defense relies on multiple international defense companies every day to buy equipment for the military. Is anyone looking out for our country’s best interest when dealing with foreign competitors?

The answer should be yes. Earlier this year, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the National Industrial Security Program. NISP was created in 1993 by executive order to ensure that cleared U.S. defense contractors safeguard the classified information in their possession while performing work on contracts, programs, bids, or research and development efforts. NISP manages contractors under foreign ownership, control or influence in order “to facilitate foreign investment by ensuring that foreign firms cannot undermine U.S. security and export controls to gain unauthorized access to critical technology, classified information, and special classes of classified information.”

Back in 1993, there may have been a legitimate reason to want to “facilitate” foreign investment in the industry. But as the recent tanker deal has shown, we may have facilitated too much. NISP is administered by the Defense Security Service, but incredibly, this agency played only a minor role, if any role at all, in determining the appropriateness of the EADS contract.

To be very clear, I don’t intend to suggest that EADS has any ulterior motives behind bidding for the contract. But the contract raises significant questions about the influence of foreign companies and governments on our defense procurement needs.

At a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing, a Government Accountability Office analyst called America’s procedures for overseeing foreign military contracts “Swiss cheese.”

Somewhere, Rosie the Riveter is rolling over in her grave.


Anonymous said...

it's too bad the republicans have nominated a man who supports letting foreign countries build out defense systems.

and it's too bad kansas's senators helped him do it.

and it's too bad our republican congresspeople didn't lift a finger to stop it.

i'm glad everyone's against it now...but, dang, it would have been nice if someone would have been against it before hand.

Anonymous said...

Boeing brought it on themselves .... they had the contract several years ago until there was an investigation of corruption. I guess people whine a little more when it is a Kansas company that is corrupt on military contract ..... then constantly beat up a corrupt company like Haliburton because they are from Texas .... wonder if some Kansans would excuse Haliburton if it was providing lots of jobs in Kansas.

Boeing only has themselves to blame on this one.

Don't believe me go to Google and type in: Boeing corruption

Anonymous said...

John McCain did what was right when things about the Boeing deal appeared questionable and asked for an investigation.

Not a big fan of John McCain but he was right in this situation. When major federal deals appear not quite right, the chair of the committee should request and investigation.

By the way Boeing also had some shady dealings raised as recently as 2005 regarding a helicopter deal they were involved in.

Anonymous said...

no...the blame is the members of congress who voted to allow the outsourcing of our national defense.

that, on it's face, it not right.

Anonymous said...

Yeah .... it is much better to provide the contract to crooked US companies.

Good to see the Democrats supporting corruption over principle

Anonymous said...

If a French swamp frog goes ribbit...ribbit...ribbit; and a US Busch frog goes bud...wis...er;

What does a Boing frog sound like?

- Re-bid...Re-bid...re-bid.

This is just a lesson for Boeing to learn. A a civil aircraft modified by Northrop does not hurt US national security that much.

Anonymous said...

no problem with boeing not getting the contract....i have a problem with a foreign company building out defense systems.

Anonymous said...

Then should Europeans also have a problem when buying US material?

- Have a look to European fleet:

Spain: F-5, F-4, F-18, P-3, C-130, Chinook...
Portugal: F-16, P-3, C-130, FTB-337...
Italy: F-16, C130J...
UK: C-17A, C-130, Tristar, Chinook...
Germany: F-4, RQ-4B, T-37, T-38, UH-1D
France: C-135/KC-135 tankers, C-130...

Protectionism is synonymous with cowardice. Free commerce, globalization; this is the price.

Anonymous said...

Protectionism is synonymous with cowardice

first off, that's ridiculous.

secondly, this isn't a matter of protectionism- the United States Government shouldn't rely on other countries for our defense. we can- and should- do it ourselves.

you rabid nationalist conservatives shock me...don't you dare threaten our sovereignty- unless it's trade related, then that's fine.

sunitha said...

[..]Really it is bad that republicans have been nominated[..]It outsourcing companies

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