Outsourcing Defense Contracts; U.S. Sovereignty, Security Becoming Imperiled

Article excerpt


As American forces confront the global terrorist threat on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, an equally serious threat exists here at home with the continuous outsourcing and erosion of our defense industrial base. The deterioration of our domestic defense industries, which helped carry us to victory in World War II and the Cold War, represents one of the greatest challenges to our security and the future success of our military forces.

Despite this fact, the list of U.S. defense contracts awarded to foreign competitors continues to grow, most recently with the addition of the French- and German-controlled European and Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) as the proposed manufacturer of the Air Force's next refueling tanker. The initial $35 billion contract for 179 aircraft was awarded to EADS over the U.S.-based Boeing Co., a leading competitor in the aerospace industry that has built and supported the Air Force's tanker fleet since the Eisenhower administration.

In 2005, the Navy chose an international group primarily composed of British and Italian manufacturers to build the next presidential helicopter, even though Sikorsky Aircraft, an American defense contractor, had manufactured the familiar Marine One helicopter since the Eisenhower years. Only several months earlier, the Brazilian jet maker Embraer was awarded a $6 billion contract to build the new Aerial Common Sensor reconnaissance aircraft.

Even the pistols and medium machine guns our Marines and soldiers are using on the battlefield today are no longer American-made. The 240G machine gun that replaced the venerable M-60, the standard machine gun from Vietnam to the first Gulf War, is manufactured by Fabrique Nationale, a Belgian company. The standard 9mm pistol carried by U.S. service personnel, which replaced the Colt M-1911, a weapon that was in service from 1911 through the late 1970s, is now made by the Italian company Berretta.

These examples clearly illustrate that foreign contractors are assuming a much greater role in the development and maintenance of America's defenses. But as we become increasingly dependent on other countries for military resources and innovative technologies, we are becoming less capable of meeting our own critical defense needs.

In fact, when I was chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and American troops began taking casualties from roadside bombs on the streets of Iraq, I sent out my team to locate more steel to armor and better protect their tactical vehicles. They found only one company left in the United States that could still produce high-grade armor plate steel.

The danger of this dependency also became evident when the Swiss company Micro Crystal refused to provide our military with components for the effective deployment of Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), otherwise known as smart bombs, during the first phase of the Iraq war. Because the Swiss government objected to American action in Iraq, it ordered the company to stop the shipment of JDAM components.

Given that our military relies on this weapons system to strike with precision and limit the potential for collateral damage, this could have cost time and lives. We were fortunately able to find alternative components through a domestic manufacturer, though it took several months.

These issues alone should be reason enough to begin restoring our defense manufacturing base and reverse the current course. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the continued selection of foreign contractors to build some of our weapons systems, it appears we have learned little so far. …