The ongoing saga that has been the Air Force’s questionable management of the Light Air Support (LAS) contract has taken yet another seemingly unprecedented turn. On March 22nd the Air Force decided to interfere during the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) necessary review of the LAS procurement process.
In a stunning move, the Air Force cited national security as its rationale for deciding to override the stay during the GAO’s review of their conduct despite recent investigations uncovering outright bias on the part of Air Force officials during the first source selection process in 2011. Claiming our brave service members are better served by allowing an arm of the Brazilian government – Embraer – to produce our vital defense equipment does not stand up to even the faintest scrutiny.
The American military has been the face of freedom worldwide, whereas Brazil has chosen to placate despots. In 2011, when presented with the opportunity to unequivocally condemn the human rights violations and bloodshed in Syria, Brazil broke with the U.S. and others in the international community by abstaining from a resolution before the United Nations (UN) Security Council. What’s more, several years ago Brazil did not support the actions taken by the UN Security Council to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Libya. The multilateral effort sought to use “all necessary measures” to protect civilian lives by enforcing a no-fly-zone against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi.
Brazil was also an outspoken critic of the US-led effort to topple brutal dictator Saddam Hussein. The consequences of Brazil’s laissez-faire worldview and indecisiveness in the face of dire security threats would be even more pronounced should it ever exercise its Golden Share authority over Embraer. Embraer is subject to the control of the Brazilian government under a “Golden Share” clause that enables Brazilian officials to have ultimate veto power over all operations, including foreign military contracts. Varying press accounts indicate Brazil has exercised its “Golden Share” authority in the past. Therefore, it would be unwise to relinquish control over the production of strategic military assets, such as LAS aircraft, to a nation who has failed to address some of gravest security crises that have gripped the world in recent times.
The Air Force decision to shield the LAS contract from a thorough review by invoking national security and the urgent need to deliver these planes to Afghanistan is all the more ridiculous when one remembers it was the Air Force’s gross mishandling that delayed the production of the planes in the first place. Had the Air Force conducted a fair and competitive procurement in 2011, their decision would not have been shrouded in doubt with lingering unanswered questions today. Moreover, they would have rightly selected a company with a proven record of meeting our military needs, Kansas-based Beechcraft, to manufacture LAS planes in the U.S by American workers.
The abuses and subsequent delay of the LAS acquisition lay at the feet of the Air Force. Instead of taking responsibility and allowing a modicum of transparency, Air Force officials have chosen to outsource jobs and our defense capabilities for years to come. Astonishingly, they are willing to do this even though the cost of the Brazilian aircraft is over budget by at least $120 million. The decision defies logic and the Air Force’s purported national security claims.
Our service members would be better served if LAS aircraft were produced here in U.S. by a manufacturer who does not have to answer to a foreign sovereign power. It is not in our long-term national security or economic interests to allow this flawed contract decision to stand.