There are some things you simply don’t farm out — and national security is one of those things

I am cheap.  Very cheap.  That means that I’m a bargain hunter.  I like used books and cheap clothes.  I prefer to buy American but, if my pocketbook tells me that America isn’t a good deal, I’ll usually follow my pocketbook.  Usually, but not always.  If buying something from another country would put me in danger, I don’t do it.  That’s why I don’t buy canned goods or, indeed, anything that goes in my mouth, from China.  The t-shirts may be shoddy, fading and ripping quickly, but they won’t poison me.  The food just might.  (I’d like to avoid Chinese honey, too, which is chock full of antibiotics, fungicides, and industrial pollutants, but the fact is that most of the major manufacturers that use honey as an ingredient buy cheap Chinese honey.)

Not only will I avoid products that will harm me, I’m also unlikely to pay someone for service if I know that the person’s agenda is hostile to mine.  You don’t have the local thief install your burglar alarm.  I don’t even need active hostility to back off.  I also won’t buy service from someone who doesn’t have a vested interest in doing a good job for me.

None of the above is rocket science.  It’s good old-fashioned common sense — which, of course, is the one thing government lacks.  This current administration, especially, seems to go out of its way to abandon common sense.

I mention all this now because of a news story that the MSM is ignoring, but that should matter to everyone concerned both with American national security and with the American economy.  Here’s the deal:

There may be additional heartening employment news in the same sector [Boeing got an air tanker deal], following a request by the U.S. Air Force to identify suppliers for a new kind of airplane that can perform the light attack and armed reconnaissance (LAAR) missions that are being requested by our military leaders.

The new aircraft’s purpose is to allow our U.S. pilots to more effectively execute the tactics, maneuvers and procedures that are needed for the type of counter insurgency warfare that we are currently seeing in Afghanistan and other conflict zones around the globe. In turn, these American pilots will train their partners and developing nation counterparts to fly these same planes and defend themselves, with a goal of reducing the need for U.S. military presence in the region.

Two companies are vying for the Air Force contract — Hawker Beechcraft, a Kansas-based company, and Embraer, a Brazilian owned and operated company.

The Red State article to which I linked explains that Hawker Beechcraft has a good history and a good product.  I’m sure that’s true.  I’ll even stipulate that Embraer also has a good history and a good product.  My question, though, is why in the world our government, which has never before been constrained by bargain shopping and common  sense, is willingly giving another country the blueprints for and access to one of our military products?

Here’s a perfect anecdote to illustrate my concerns:  Think back to 1976 and the Entebbe rescue mission.  The Israeli military’s raid on Entebbe to rescue hostages is one of the great stories of derring-do, intelligent planning, heroism, and creative thinking.  But it was also made possible by one significant fact:  More than a decade before the hostage-taking, an Israeli company had built the airport.  This meant that Israel had the plans.  As it happened, back in 1976, the fact that a non-Ugandan company had this type of information was the best thing that could have happened, helping the good guys win, and soundly defeating and humiliating the bad guys.

In this case, though, we’re the good guys.  I’d classify the Brazilians as the neutral guys for now, although their decision to follow in our footsteps and elect an anti-capitalist president is worrying.  While I believe and hope that Americans can and will shake off the Obama’s pernicious socialism, it’s not so clear that Brazil will.  If Venezuela is any guide, once socialism is firmly ensconced in a Latin American government, that government is no friend of ours.  Even without that specific scenario, though, the fact is taht one never knows what will happen in another country.  Right now, we’re witnessing events in the Middle East that caught the West entirely flatfooted.  Today’s friend is tomorrow’s enemy.

The whole friend/enemy thing is tolerable if you’re talking about buying t-shirts and canned foods or tables and cars from your frenemy, but it comes much more fraught when you’re talking about national security.  The optimal situation is one in which no country, Brazil included, knows too much about a “new kind of airplane that can perform the light attack and armed reconnaissance missions that” are part of modern American military tactics. Ten years from now, when the world has shifted, we may find ourselves bitterly regretting placing that information in another’s hands.

In addition to the security angle, there’ s also a matter of steering tax dollars, especially during a big recession.  It’s one thing for the marketplace to make decisions about where the money flows.  If I want to send my money to China, well, that’s my choice.  If enough people do that, than China gets rich or American companies figure out how to compete.  The government, though, is not the marketplace.  We’re not talking millions of customers making market-responsive decisions.  Instead, we’re talking about a huge, unwieldy, unresponsive bureaucracy taking millions and millions of dollars that taxpayers are forced to hand over to the government, and then sending it far, far away from the taxpayers.  This makes sense if the American market cannot supply the product — but we know that, in this case, the American market, made up of American taxpayers, is perfectly capable of providing the product.  There is therefore, no economic reason to ship our security over seas.

My congress people are Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Lynn Woolsey.  In other words, contacting them is about as useful as using tweezers to move mountains.  If you’re in a district that boasts slightly responsive congress people, though, let them know your concerns about this deal.  Sending military airplane manufacturing out of the country is bad for national security and bad for the economy.

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    Speaking of shopping, this is certainly worth reading.
    The Libyan war has become the global arms market’s richest event in five years. Qaddafi may be its primary engine, but Libyan rebels have not been amiss to dipping their hands in this lucrative market on their own behalf, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military and intelligence sources disclose.
    Indeed more than one party has been attracted by Libya’s weapons trove, notably Iran, Hizballah and Hamas.
    In the third week of February, Iranian representatives arrived in Benghazi on a shopping trip. They sat down with “senior officers” of Libya’s rebel forces, including former members of Qaddafi’s army.

  • David Foster

    There is also a danger, when procuring weapons overseas, that the supplier and/or its government might decide it doesn’t like what we’re doing in some conflict and decide to cut off shipments. IIRC, this actually happened during the Iraq war when a Swiss company decided to stop supplying a JDAM missile component.
    It will not be possible to make all weapons systems and their components in the US…many electronics components, for example, are used mainly for civilian purposes and it wouldn’t be feasible to crank up US manufacturing for the 2% of usage that *is* military, and also some major systems are intended to be sold to allies as well as for our own use, and those allies expect to get a piece of the production. But I think that contracts for all non-US sourcing should include very large penalty/liquidated-damages clauses, to be triggered by any wilful nondelivery and guaranteed by assets which are within US control or reach.

  • jj

    I would say there’s one aspect of the Air Force tanker deal you don’t much hear of – and you certainly aren’t going to hear about it from Boeing’s two sock puppets – Murray and Cantwell – but when you think about it, things become a little clearer.
    A brief excursion into history.  During WW-II the US military got major orders of airplanes from: Bell; Boeing; Chance-Vought; Consolidated; Curtiss; Douglas; Grumman’ Lockheed; Martin; North American; Northrop; and Republic.  Those were major suppliers – and there were smaller ones, experimental designs, companies who did a couple of prototypes for test purposes, etc.
    Look how many companies there are on that list, all supplying proven, grade-A products.  Today?  Here’s what we have.  I will put one name in bold type – see how often it appears:
    F-15 Manufactured by McDonnell-Douglas.  They’re gone, the planes are maintained by Boeing.
    F-16 Manufactured by General Dynamics, who don’t really want to be in this business any more.  The line’s closed, they say they’ll never bid again.
    F/A -18 The Hornet, the Navy’s one and only fighter.  Manufactured by McDonnell-Douglas, which is still gone, so the Hornets are now a Boeing operation.
    F/A-18 Growler – see above.  Boeing.
    A-10 Ground support, manufactured by Fairchild-Republic, who are no longer interested, the line’s long closed, and they say they will never bid again.
    F-22 Manufactured by Lockheed-Martin, we’re buying fewer than a fifth of what the Air Force wanted, so that line will close down quick, and L-M’s disgusted.
    F-35 The Joint Strike Fighter, manufactured by Lockheed-Martin.  Obama’s canceled it – and the space program –  so L-M’s about an inch away from needing a third partner.  (Lockheed and Martin were both separate companies, once upon a time.)
    F/A-117 Manufactured by Lockheed.  Dealing with the Air Force in the 1980s broke them, and this and the C-5 were the last Lockheed projects, they merged with Martin in 1995.  Only about 60 of these things were built.
    KC-10 A tanker, manufactured by McDonnell-Douglas, but they’re still out of business, so this is yet another problem for Boeing.
    KC-135 The original jet tanker, manufactured and maintained by Boeing.
    B-52 The big bomber – Boeing.
    B-1 Manufactured by Rockwell.  They only made 80 or so of them, so Rockwell didn’t make much.  They have no further reason to wish to do business with the government.
    B-2 Manufactured by Northrop-Grumman, but they only got to make 24 of them, so that was a swell experience and money-maker for the company.
    C-5 Manufactured by Lockheed, another swell experience for them, leading straight to bankruptcy and merger with Martin in 1995.
    C-130 A positive experience for Lockheed – they did great – but not positive enough to save them from needing to merge.
    C-141 Same as above for Lockheed, it didn’t save them.
    C-17 Manufactured by McDonnell-Douglas, who are still broke and remain gone, so these are handled by Boeing these days.
    E3-BC Sentry     The AWACS plane – Boeing.
    E4B     Command and control for those unfamiliar with them, and they’re Boeing.
    The point is, of the military’s 19 major aircraft types, 9 of them are already being built, or rebuilt and maintained, by Boeing.  The Air Force initially tried to award the new tanker contract to Northrop-Grumman, who would have built on an EADS (Airbus) platform. (Boeing’s building on a 767 platform.)  In point of fact, there would have been more states involved with sub-assemblies, etc. with the Northrop-Grumman plane than there are with the Boeing plane – but that wasn’t the Air Force’s point.  One of the Air Force’s points was: do we really want to become beholden to and dependent on one supplier?  McDonnell-Douglas is gone.  Rockwell doesn’t want to play with us any more.  Grumman built every front-line Navy fighter from 1939 through 1974 – but the Tomcat was the last, they’re done.  Lockheed went broke and had to merge with Martin – which had already gone broke itself and had to merge with Marietta.  So do we really want our list of suppliers to read: Boeing.
    Boeing’s busy.  We’re not going to get the first new tanker now until 2018 – assuming zero problems.  They’re two years behind on the 787 first delivery.  They’re averaging a three year wait for a 737.  The new 747-8 is behind.  More new wings and bits and pieces for the B-52s – behind.  The refit job on the F-15 fleet is behind.  Some of the F/A-18s are showing cracks in the fuselage – checking out and repairing them is not happening as scheduled – they’re behind.  Boeing is BUSY!
    Do we really want them to be the last ones standing?  Well – they’re already that, pretty much – but do we really want the Air Force and Navy totally dependent on one company?  I think it was silly canceling the first contract for the new tanker, rewriting the rules, and making everyone go again until – surprise! – Boeing won.  Silly – and possibly not very healthy, either.

  • Camons

    I usually enjoy your site, but am sorry to say you got the facts absolutely wrong as far as the competition for a light attack aircraft is concerned. It is not that Brazil will know “too much about a “new kind of airplane that can perform the light attack and armed reconnaissance missions that” are part of modern American military tactics”. Brazil actually was the country that first developed a dedicated “light attack and armed reconnaissance” aircraft and wrote the book on operational and tactical use of aircraft of this class. The aircraft competing for the US requirement, the “Super Tucano”, has already been successfully used in combat, most notably by the Colombian government against the FARC. Given the close ties between the Colombian and the US military, as well as emergence of similar COIN requirements in Afghanistan and possibly elsewhere, the existance of such a (Brazilian) aircraft attracted the attention of the US armed forces.
    In fact, the “Super Tucano”, as the only operational aircraft in its class -its “American” competitor (actually derived from a Swiss design under licence)  has only recently become airborne-, has actually been bought by the US military to enable the development of indigenous operational doctrine on its use. As far as I know, and I am writing from memory, at least one aircraft was bought by Blackwater, a military contractor, and later leased or sold to the US Navy for this purpose. The Navy may have actually bought another for the same purpose. So, in fact, the US ALREADY has at least one (and maybe two) such Brazilian aircraft and, if anything, the lessons learned from it (or them) have actually been used as an input for the operational requirements and for its American competitor. The flow of knowledge in this specific case, therefore, is the other way around, from Brazil to the US.
    Incidentally, I should note that the “Super Tucano” uses Israeli avionics, as well as numerous US components.

  • Camons

    As a complement, it should be noted that the “Super Tucano”, if eventually chosen, would be manufactured in the US, just like its competitor, the AT-6 II -which as noted before, is derived from the T-6 II, itself derived from a Swiss design modified to suit American requirements. Using the same principles as you mentioned, maybe the T-6 II should not have been chosen as the light/medium trainer by the US air force, as it is not an original American design and some royalties payments to foreign countries are likely to take place.

  • Ymarsakar

    Whatever happens, most of the money is going to flow into Obama or his buddys’ accounts.

    The only reason the Left criticizes the military industrial complex is because they want more kickbacks from diverting contracts to their own military sources. Like Feinstein does when she did it for her husband.

  • Bookworm

    Thank you Camons for that information.  I love it that I have such well-informed visitors here.  What you’ve said certainly puts a different spin on the national security issue, since Brazil knows more about the subject than the US.

    Nevertheless, I’d ultimately prefer us to “own” our own national security, even if it means just slightly re-engineering something so that another nation — friendly now but, perhaps not so in the future — doesn’t hold all of our information.

    The Entebee lesson makes it clear that too much information in another’s hands can backfire.  The rapidly changing alliances in the world show that, ultimately, you cannot trust anyone but yourself.  Certainly Israel is learning this lesson as Barack Obama turns his back on an alliance spanning decades.  With BHO in the White House England learned that lesson too.  So did Poland and the Czech Republic.  And on and on.


    Following the murders of two and the wounding of another two servicemen in Germany, there’s a change.  I understand the need to camouflage in combat, but it now seems that the Command finds Europe as dangerous as the battlefield. I am disgusted … we freed Europe from one plaque, Nazis, only to see it being swarmed again by another. Nothing has changed, except the calendar year.
    U.S. troops in Europe are now forbidden to wear their uniforms off post “to the maximum extent possible,” including daily commutes to and from the office, as part of an effort to prevent service members from standing out in a crowd, according to U.S. European Command.

  • Ymarsakar

    This basically means the Brazillian socialist government can nationalize their companies, grab the information, and sell it to our enemies, and the US can do… what about it.

    It’s like Venezuela and the Arabs seizing oil. What are the ones who built and funded them, going to do about it? Jack all, that’s what.

    It puts them into the sphere of control of another. And when things are in someone else’s sphere of control, you don’t have much of a say in what goes on, if any. Obama himself demonstrated this by nationalizing GM and bailing out unions over SECURED investors, diverting money from the investors to the union hack job buddies of his.

  • Ymarsakar

    Sadie, since we need more troops to fight our wars, removing them from Europe and putting them in the Middle East bases, would be a better idea. Higher security in ME.