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The PJ Tatler

George Landrith


July 8, 2013 - 6:36 pm

Much, though nowhere near enough, has been written of the Defense Department’s boondoggle in the arena of a $300 million contract for 20 Light Air Support (LAS) aircraft to be sent to Afghanistan and done in the name of bringing our troops home.

The process, wrought with controversy, ended with the United States government doling out a taxpayer-funded defense contract to a foreign government-controlled manufacturer – Brazil’s Embraer – over an American one – Kansas-based Beechcraft – costing over a thousand domestic jobs and incurring unnecessary national security risks in the process.

Brazil’s government – which owns a controlling ‘Golden Share’ in Embraer – has made its been overt in its opposition to U.S. foreign policy aims, making the decision to entrust a company subsidized by that government with our national defense even more bewildering.

After announcing Embraer’s selection, the DOD ignored protests regarding the lack of transparency in the decision-making process that have historically been given credence, citing an immediate need for the planes in Afghanistan.

New information has come to light that casts serious doubts on that assertion, and indicates that other questionable procurement deals are being carried out in the name of urgency and national defense.

In addition to the LAS boondoggle, the Air Force also agreed to purchase 30 Mi-17 helicopters from Russia’s Rosoboronexport last month.

Rosoboronexport is a “major supplier of weapons to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad,” who was launching chemical attacks against his own people as the ink was drying on the Air Force contract.  

Yes, you read that right – as President Obama and top officials discuss options to give military aid to the Syrian rebels, our Defense Department will be helping to keep one of Assad’s top suppliers in business.

What of the DOD’s protestations that the planes and helicopters are desperately needed in Afghanistan?  Watchdog group Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reports that “Afghan special forces unit due to receive the aircraft could not fly or maintain them.”

Not only are we setting a controversial and dangerous precedent for whom we deal with on defense matters, but it’s being done in the name of equipping Afghan forces that aren’t even ready to fly or maintain the craft?

The SIGAR study further notes that that the “Afghan Special Mission Wing, which will support counterterrorism and counternarcotics operations, had only 180 personnel earlier this year, less than a quarter of the 860 people envisioned for the force by July 2015.”

Despite Afghan forces who are unable to put the planes we’ve already ordered to use, the Department of Defense’s proposed FY 2014 budget calls for “an additional 20 [LAS] aircraft, funded with FY 2014 funds,” running the total to 40.

Are we to assume that these, too, will be handed on a silver platter to Embraer and, by extension, Brazil’s government while we are being forced to make difficult budget cuts domestically?

Bureaucratic bungling has created a situation in which the U.S. government – and taxpayers – are cutting checks to foreign entities that are at best not helpful and, in the case of Rosoboronexport, directly contradictory to our strategic military and national security aims.

It’s time for action on this, lest we continue to entrust our national defense to those we aren’t defending.

George Landrith is president of Frontiers of Freedom.

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All Comments   (5)
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O.K. So, in Brazil's case what does: Iran, Syria, Hezbolla, Hamas, and Sao Paulo Forum(Brazil) have in common??? Marxist/leninist philosphy. Or, better yet, crushing the Big (USA) and Little (ISRAEL) Devils, simultaneously. If one thinks, Dilma Rouseff (and her Brazilian cabal), with the aircraft prodution, equipment, avionics, blueprints et al in hand isn't going to pass this up the "soviet ladder" straight to Putin...well, there's a Great Bridge for sale in New York, cheap and has a registered deed, too. Somebody in Obama's administration has to be totally (or partially) delusional to not have felt this animus from ALL Latin American nations towards the USA...especially when it comes to military weaponry...EMBRAER is directly under Dilma's "central command!" Wake-up America!!! Jeez!!!What do you think todays riots in all Brazil are about...Dilma's communism!!! Pray. Amen. Join a Tea Party!!!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What is needed for the Afghans to support will come over time and I don’t remember the American Armed forces running helicopters, cargo aircraft and other military equipment in 1776, 1812, or 1914. Rome was not built in a day, and neither was the American Air Force, Afghan Air Force or others.

Suspending the purchase is not what one does in the middle of a counter insurgency. You keep what’s running, running and work through the problems, shortages, training and fix bottle neck after bottle neck. Not cry in your soup, feel sorry for yourself, blame others and stop programs that are already late after being sometimes mismanaged by a peace time bureaucracy that lives in Washington, Virginia and gets to go home every night in peace. In the words of the Late Gen Norman Schwarzkopf: “The battle plan is good to the first five minutes of the battle” and that is why one fixes what’s broken, adjusts and improvises. The ISAF folks know what they are doing in many cases so let them do their jobs and look at the end result, not somewhere in the middle to justify a policy of disengagement and disinterest from 1989 when we all could have stabilized Afghanistan on the cheap before the whole world community turned its back with predicable results .

Oversight is important, but it should not turn into micro management from people half a world away or a pretext for another agenda (not necessarily SIGAR who are more misguided and wrapped up in procedure, not combat) . People with other agenda’s should stay out of Foreign Affairs and stick to municipal affairs, local politics, local garbage pick up, soft ball, or what their child’s Hamster by the name of Rupert is doing after school. Please for god’s sake stay out of a life and death struggle by Afghans, Americans, Canadians and others who are actually committed to seeing the mission through. The international community screwed it up in 1989 through neglect. Lets do it right this time and please don't say we have been since 2001 because a consistent effort has not been fully applied all of this time. More like 2009 onward, and for the most part we get out of commitments what we consistently invest in them, or not.

Before making a procurement decision, in or out of government, please go into the hospital at K.A.F. (Kandahar air field) and see patients with a tube in their mouth because you or I screwed up a procurement or equipment was repeatedly delayed with infighting did not arrive in time . Remember these are the lucky ones. This is where our true loyalty lies, or should for those pretending to have a conscience.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It would help your article a lot if you articluated why the Embraer aircraft was selected over the Beechcraft. Was it better suited for the environment? Easier to maintain? Etc. Same for the helos.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The planes : Beeches are converted trainers [AT-6's] that carry less, have an almost Zero track record for this type of use and require more maintenance as a result.
Embraer Super Tucanos are proven, with multiple countries using them in just this capacity, readily available, and will be made in the U S with a whole bunch of U S Suppliers as a plus.
[See Aviation Week's website for much more info]
The Helicopters: These units are what Afghans were/are using, not an unknown, and are rugged implements as only Russians can build them.
There is a reason they've been around for such a long time : They work day-in and day-out, are really useful [and multi-purposeful], and local boneheads can fix them a lot more easily than anything made anywhere else. [except maybe Red China's stuff, which does not last nearly as long]
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Once the contracts are awarded and past their protest period, the options are much more limited and much more expensive.

The companies that bid and lost must file a protest. If they don't, there is nothing to be done other than a politically satisfying public "cancellation" while the companies (Embraer, Rosoboronexport) then quietly sue the U.S. government in its own courts, using its own laws to then get paid anyway. So we can pay now and get something or cancel now, pay anyway (later) and get nothing.

This is one of those situations where vigilance is required early. Those companies should not even have been allowed to bid. That is where this public campaign should have started. I don't mean that as criticism, but merely as a statement of unfortunate fact.

If the losing bidders protest within the allotted time period, then other options are available, but those are not things that average citizens can weigh in on.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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