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Syndi Holmes

Of Helicopters and Sell Outs
By Syndi Holmes
Sep 1, 2004 - 4:02:00 PM

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We all have heard the statistics of unemployment, under-employment and poverty rates that continue to rise. We all know about the jobless recovery, about outsourcing and the number of jobs lost overseas. The President marginally acknowledges these issues but prefers to focus on his tax cuts and the magic they are supposed to work.

What the President isn't telling us is that he himself is seriously considering outsourcing a 1.6 to 1.8 Billion Dollar contract to build a new fleet of Presidential helicopters. An Italian-Anglo corporation, AgustaWestland who has partnered with Lockheed Martin is being seriously considered and this consortium is pulling out all the stops as they compete against an American firm.

The President has gotten bi-partisan support for the European-American consortium by way of New York's senior senator, Senator Schumer, who is supporting this project as Lockheed-Martin has a corporate presence in Owego, NY. The Senator and local officials in Owego believe it could result in hundreds of new jobs coming to the area. If Lockheed is selected, it has pledged that the first helicopters it delivers would have at least 65% U.S.-made content - and please note that it only states that THE FIRST HELICOPTERS are included in that pledge. [3] What exactly is the precise number of first helicopters out of a fleet of 123 helicopters? Schumer feels that:"In this instance, selecting a helicopter produced with two of US's most devoted allies can help strengthen crucial ties with partners in the war on terror." [1]

According to an ITN newscast, Tony Blair has been advocating the helicopters built by the Italian-Anglo firm, AgustaWestland, to the President as it is the type of helicopter he [Blair] uses. Per an article in the Waco (TX) Tribune, "some suggest President Bush owes British Prime Minister Tony Blair for Blair's support of the war in Iraq. Some observers wonder if Bush would use his clout to reward Blair by supporting the Lockheed/AgustaWestland consortium."

AgustaWestland was established as a joint venture between the Italian firm Finmeccanica and the British firm, GNK, in 2001. On the basis of reported revenues in 2003, AgustaWestland is the world's No. 2 helicopter manufacturer.

Per it's website, Finmeccanica describes it's corporation as specialists in the defence industry and states it is the leading Italian manufacturer of civil and military aircraft, aeronautics and is  the Italian leader in the space sector as well as one of the largest Research and Development firms in Italy.

GNK are global suppliers of automotive components as well as being the world's No.1 independent supplier of composite aircraft structures; among it's clientele are "important US military aircraft programmes such as the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, F/A-22 Raptor, C-17 Globemaster 111 and F-35 JSF" (per it's corporate website).

AgustaWestland has partnered with Lockheed-Martin to put an American face on the project. And Lockheed-Martin is scrambling to add some American sub-contractors to make it appear that this is really an American project, including Fort Worth-based Bell Helicopter and seven other supply companies in Bush's home state of Texas. To challenge it's Connecticut -based competitor as of Aug. 24, 2004, Lockheed-Martin had identified 13 additional companies in Connecticut to supply components for the helicopter.

There is a American firm, Sikorsky of Straford, Connecticut. that is committed to building a 100% American product. In fact, Sikorsky brought home jobs that they had previously sent abroad to prepare for this contract.

Paul Jackson, a spokesman for Sikorsky Aircraft has stated in interviews that Sikorsky has "an enormous amount of experience in military aircraft, specifically in production of the Black Hawk" line of choppers flown by the Air Force, Army and Navy. [2]

Jackson said the company would build its VH-92 exclusively with American parts and contractors. "This is not being done for political reasons, and never was," he said. "It is all about security and safety. How else can you guarantee the integrity of your supply chain?" [2]

Another Sikorsky spokesman Bud Grebey was quoted as saying, "If they get this contract, it will mean a net job loss in the United States. Of those, the high-value jobs will be the ones that go to Europe." [3]

"If President Bush is involved in the decision-making, he may regard Britain and Italy as better friends than Connecticut," said Richard Aboulafia, a military analyst at the Teal Group, a consulting firm based in Fairfax, Virginia. [2]

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will award in December as the President allegedly wants no decision made prior to the election. Several news sources, one being the Wichita Business Journal, has reported on March 18, 2004 that the contract award had been scheduled for May.

Being awarded the contract to build the presidential helicopters could be used as leverage to obtain  the contract:for the construction of between 100 and 150 helicopters for the U.S. Air Force to be used in search-and-rescue missions so actually more American jobs are on the line than what initially appears.

On Tuesday evening (August 31,2004) as a featured speaker at the Republican Convention, Arnold Schwarzenegger derided those of us who are concerned about the economy and the fate of real people' we are trivialised as "economic girlie-men." (and I vehemently oppose the sexist name calling)

I ask, why shouldn't every working American be concerned about their jobs and futures being sold out at the highest levels of our government?

[1]Schumer.senate.gov/SchumerWebsite
[2]  Waco Tribune -Herald 08/18/04 Two Waco plants on different sides of presidential helicopter contract bid MIKE COPELAND Tribune-Herald business editor
[3] Smart Money.com August 9, 2004  News search Dow Jones News Wire


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