Dangers ahead in Air Force procurement: Aircraft contracts could reward Russia, French espionage and bribery, and other bad behavior

Would-be JCA workers in Spain boost Chavez, oppose U.S., want to cut Israel. In Spain, where the EADS CASA division manufactures the C-295 that is a candidate to become the Joint Cargo Aircraft, the aircraft manufacturers are even more militant in their General Confederation of Workers (CGT) union. In January, 2006, EADS CASA workers held a work stoppage to protest the United States’ invocation of nonproliferation regulations to stop the company from selling its planes, which contain U.S.-made components, to the Chavez regime in Venezuela.27

Last August, CGT’s official newsletter Rojo y Negro featured a photo montage of CGT workers waving their anarcho-Marxist red-and-black union flags to demand that Socialist President Luis Zapatero sever all relations with Israel.28 On September 4, the CGT decried what it called the “demonization” of Iran, denied that Iranian leaders had ever threatened to wipe Israel off the map or deny the Nazi holocaust, and said that stories about Iran building nuclear weapons were “a lie.”29 The next day, the CGT announced a boycott of new postage stamps that marked the 20th anniversary of Spanish-Israeli diplomatic relations.30 According to Rojo y Negro, Spaniards find “nothing to celebrate about Israel.” The EADS CASA union accused Israel of “indiscriminately murdering thousands of civilians, among them hundreds of children.” Israel alone, in the words of the union, is responsible for having doomed its neighbors “to live in poverty and submission, in the midst of constant violence.”31

Review: EADS tried to arm Chavez while it lobbied Capitol Hill

Finally, we recall how EADS tried to have it both ways by arming Venezuelan dictator Chavez last year, while its lobbyists worked on Congress to buy its military transport planes.

White House tries to stop EADS sale to Chavez. In January, 2006, the U.S. invoked international arms trade regulations to stop EADS from selling its Spanish-built EADS CASA C-295 and CN-235 transport and patrol planes to Chavez. Under the regulations, known as ITAR, other countries cannot sell military products containing American-made components to third countries without U.S. approval. Since the EADS CASA planes contain dozens of U.S. parts, including engines and unique turboprops, the White House notified EADS and Spain of its objections.

Rather than comply as a reliable U.S. defense partner would be expected to do, EADS immediately tried to circumvent ITAR by stripping out the American-made equipment and trying to find non-U.S. replacements. EADS lobbyists told Senate staffers that the company wasn’t going to go through with the sale. A top EADS official pledged that the company would not violate American laws and regulations.32 But EADS engineers and executives were busy doing just the opposite, senior Venezuelan government officials, including the defense minister and the ambassador to Spain, told the press in July and October that the deal was still in the works.33 Only when it was clear that EADS could not come up with the substitute components did the deal officially fall through, in an October, 2006 announcement – nine months after President Bush invoked ITAR.

Senators intervene. Senator Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) saw the problem immediately and sent a “Dear Colleague” letter voicing his concerns: “Despite objections by the Bush administration, Spanish-owned onstrucciones Aeronauticas SA (CASA) proceeded with the sale, removing US components from the aircraft so the US could not use the International Trade in Arms Regulations to block the sale. . . . This case underscores the need to establish a comprehensive policy that holds foreign military suppliers accountable for cooperating with hostile regime that compromise US security.”34

A bipartisan group of four senators – Kyl, Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) – wrote their concerns to President Bush.35

Center urged U.S. boycott. As the Center for Security Policy said in its September 27, 2006 Decision Brief, “EADS CASA, the French-German-Spanish-Russian aerospace company, has gone out of its way to ignore repeated U.S. requests not to sell C-295 military aircraft to Caracas. The company has circumvented the U.S. nonproliferation law and willfully broken the U.S. arms embargo against Venezuela. It has also misled Congress about the nature of the Venezuela deal. EADS CASA planned to recoup any losses incurred in its Venezuela sale by getting Congress to buy the C-295 for the new Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA) program. Therefore, Congress and the Administration must declare that the U.S. will not purchase any EADS CASA aircraft until the Chavez regime is gone. That means removing the EADS CASA C-295 from consideration in the JCA program and removing funding for purchase of the aircraft by the Coast Guard Deepwater program.”36

With EADS now trying to get the Pentagon to buy its Airbus tanker, the stakes are even higher.

About J. Michael Waller

J. Michael Waller is Senior Analyst for Strategy at the Center for Security Policy. His areas of concentration are propaganda, political warfare, psychological warfare, and subversion. He is the former Walter and Leonore Annenberg Professor of International Communication at the Institute of World Politics, a graduate school in Washington, DC. A former instructor with the Naval Postgraduate School, he is an instructor/lecturer at the John F Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg.