While Donald Trump declares his policy is “America First,” yet another government watchdog report shreds that claim.
Congress requires that all Defense Department work at home be done by American companies. After all, we wouldn’t want a Shanghai electronics maker, operating as a front for the Chinese military, to put even one transistor in America’s military command-and-control systems. We wouldn’t want a Kremlin front to secretly slip engine kill switches in our fighter-bombers.
But foreign firms often successfully pose as American-owned and -operated, according to a new report by the Government Accounting Office, the investigative arm of our Congress.
This is precisely the kind of policy failure that Trump told voters he would end. But he has not.
This week the GAO warned of “several types of financial and nonfinancial fraud and national security risks posed by contractors with opaque ownership.”
It examined 32 cases that have been settled. It found “price inflation through multiple companies owned by the same entity to falsely create the appearance of competition, contractors receiving contracts they were not eligible to receive, and a foreign manufacturer receiving sensitive information or producing faulty equipment through a U.S.-based company.”
Significantly the GAO limited its study to cases that have undergone thorough review so the facts are settled. It said nothing about how many cases are pending and whether any show attempts—or successes—by hostile foreign powers planting faulty or spy-worthy equipment in our military hardware and software.
Wall Street Fronts
We know that hostile foreign powers are doing all they can to use Wall Street fronts and other corporate guises to damage our military capacity.
The highest levels of the Chinese military, for example, used Wall Street fronts to acquire and then remove from America neodymium technology that is a necessary component of mobile homes, lightweight car engine starter motors, high tech headsets and many military applications including smart bomb guidance devices.
The failures of two administrations on neodymium were detailed in the chapter Chinese Magnetisism in my 2007 bestseller Free Lunch. President Bill Clinton’s administration allowed the sale of the rare earth technology companies to a Wall Street firm that turned out to be a front for the Chinese military command. The George W. Bush administration then allowed the buyers, who by then had been unmasked, to remove this technology, making America vulnerable to Chinese control of neodymium supplies.
Since then, Congressional hearings showed, the Chinese have used their lock on s0-called rare earths to advance China’s interests at our expense. And they have wielded the threat of cutting us off in the gratuitous trade war Trump declared would be easy to win.
This is precisely the kind of policy failure that Trump told voters he would end. But he has not. And it’s not surprising given that Trump says that only Einsteins can understand digital technology.
The awful truth is that Trump knows less than most Army privates about geopolitical strategy, as documented here, here and here, among many other places. As Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman wrote in 2016, Trump’s ignorance is bottomless.
The new GAO report cited the example of “an ineligible foreign manufacturer that illegally exported sensitive military data and provided defective and nonconforming parts that led to the grounding of at least 47 fighter aircraft.”
In fact that case resulted in the crash of a Missouri Air National Guard F-15C Eagle jet fighter because a key airframe support failed during flight. The pilot escaped.
The graphic below explains how that scheme worked.
While the GAO does not identify the contractor, the only known case it fits involved the November 2007 crash of a Missouri Air National Guard F-15C Fighter jet. The pilot survived the failure of a key structural support part during flight.
In all 160 planes required rework at a cost of about $500,000 each. The grounding of those planes for repairs also reduced training and ready-to-fly alert team operations in case of a sneak attack.
Failure to Act
Boeing used the inferior foreign-made parts in maintaining aging F-15s. But there is no reason to believe that such abuses have ended based on the GAO report.
The problem of foreign contractors posing as American firms—and as multiple firms—is not new.
What makes the GAO report significant is that Trump, unlike George W. Bush and Barack Obama, ran for office on an “America First” platform and a promise to end such abuses.
The GAO report makes clear that through budget year 2018, which ended last fall, nothing has been done to fulfill or even start work on his promise, at least when it comes to Pentagon contracting. That ending time period places the failure to properly safeguard our country squarely on Trump’s watch.
The Defense Department agreed with the GAO findings, the report shows. Most of its comments were withheld on national security grounds.
Courts have avoided refereeing between Congress and the president — Trump may change all that
President Donald Trump’s refusal to hand over records to Congress and allow executive branch employees to provide information and testimony to Congress during the impeachment battle is the strongest test yet of legal principles that over the past 200 years have not yet been fully defined by U.S. courts.
It’s not the first test: Struggles over power among the political branches predate our Constitution. The framers chose not to, and probably could not, fully resolve them.
Donald Trump sounds like a complete lunatic because he’s isolated himself in a far-right media bubble
Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.
If you have an older relative who spends way too much time stewing in the conservative media, you may have experienced a moment when you not only disagreed with him, but you realized that you had no earthly clue what he was going on about. Perhaps it was when he started talking about the UN plot to eliminate golf courses and replace paved roads with bicycle paths. Maybe he stopped you in your tracks with a discourse on why flies were attracted to Barack Obama, or complained about the government insisting on referring to Christians as "Easter-worshippers" or expressed outrage over 9/11 hijackers being given leniency by Muslim jurists.
American exceptionalism is killing the planet
Ever since 2007, when I first started writing for TomDispatch, I’ve been arguing against America’s forever wars, whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, or elsewhere. Unfortunately, it’s no surprise that, despite my more than 60 articles, American blood is still being spilled in war after war across the Greater Middle East and Africa, even as foreign peoples pay a far higher price in lives lost and cities ruined. And I keep asking myself: Why, in this century, is the distinctive feature of America's wars that they never end? Why do our leaders persist in such repetitive folly and the seemingly eternal disasters that go with it?