“[W]hat we also have been able to do is position ourselves so we can start rebuilding America, and that’s what my plan does. Making sure that we’re bringing manufacturing back to our shores so that we’re creating jobs here, as we’ve done with the auto industry, not rewarding companies that are shipping jobs overseas.” –Barack Obama, Presidential Debate, October 22nd, 2012
President Obama spends a significant amount of his time on the campaign trail touting his supposed successes in preserving jobs for American workers and citing a vaguely-outlined plan to create additional domestic manufacturing jobs. However, when compared to the election year rhetoric, example after example paints a different reality.
One example of this breakdown between rhetoric and reality is the process for granting military supply contracts. In the case of a Light Air Support (LAS) contract for planes that would allow the Afghan Air Force to take over their own defense from U.S. forces, the Obama administration is missing an opportunity to both create American manufacturing jobs and make good on his campaign promise to bring our troops home.
Based in Wichita Kansas, Hawker Beechcraft and its AT-6 LAS aircraft present a valuable opportunity for creating and sustaining domestic jobs while producing a necessary piece of military equipment. Awarding the contract to Hawker Beechcraft is worth 1,400 long-term skilled jobs across 39 states.
Aerospace jobs are a crucial component of our economy; data from the Commerce Department show that it supports U.S.-based jobs more than any other industry in our economy given the skilled labor required. Even in a tough economy, the industry was responsible for 2 million domestic jobs, 30,000 companies, and $85 billion from sales revenue in 2010 alone.
Yet President Obama has remained silent on the issue, contrary to his statements in the second presidential debate, where he emphasized the need for “bringing manufacturing back to our shores,” and vowed to “build manufacturing jobs in this country again.”
The company competing with Hawker for the contract, Embraer, is foreign-owned and operated, and would create the vast majority of jobs in its native Brazil, with just a handful of assembly positions based in the U.S. By backing Hawker Beechcraft, President Obama would send a strong signal to the American aerospace industry that the government is not going to abandon them in favor of outsourcing even more manufacturing to a foreign competitor.
This brings us to the second campaign trail promise the president could be on the way to keeping by granting the LAS contract to Hawker instead of Embraer. Brazil has repeatedly refused to back American foreign policy initiatives, going as far as to ridicule the efforts in Afghanistan they are now trying to earn jobs to support. Granting a contract to a Brazilian entity defies logic while our troops remain in harm’s way and are dependent on appropriate outfitting for the Afghan troops in order to accomplish their mission.
In his debate with Paul Ryan, Vice President Biden emphasized the importance of outfitting and training the Afghan forces, stating, “[I]n fact, in the meantime, what we said we would do, we would help train the Afghan military. It’s their responsibility to take over their own security.”
Despite all of the rhetoric, this administration is failing to take common sense measures to accomplish their stated goals. Rather than making an obvious decision to create long-term American jobs while expediting withdrawal from Afghanistan, the President and Vice President have failed to make a decision while keeping the option open to outsource over a thousand manufacturing jobs.
If our leaders want us to believe they are serious about jobs and national defense, it’s time for them to put their money where their mouth is. This election is about jobs, and the American people will hold them accountable next Tuesday at the polls.
George C. Landrith, President and CEO, Frontiers of Freedom
George C. Landrith has served as the President of the Institute since 1998. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was Business Editor of the Virginia Journal of Law and Politics. He had a successful law practice in business and litigation. He served on the Albemarle County School Board. Mr. Landrith is an adjunct professor at the George Mason School of Law.