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The Airbus Contract: The Ports Deal With Wings?

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My reaction to the award of the massive aeriel refueling contract to a consortium that includes the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. was immediate puzzlement. There is a jobs issue and there is a national security issue.

The jobs issue is fairly straightforward: A lot of the work on the Airbus plane will be done abroad. But supporters point out a lot of the jobs will stay in the U.S. I will dig into that specific aspect of the story.

But the national security issue is troubling. If a foreign owned company builds the plane that can refuel the Air Force planes, that company will not only have a technology worth selling to say, the Chinese, it will also know a lot about all those planes its plane can refuel. Those technologies are simply much more more difficult to control when it is in the hands of a non-American country. (Don’t believe this? Read The Nuclear Jihadist for a primer on top secret technology transfers from a European consortium to Pakistan and then to North Korea, Iran, and Libya via the A.Q. Khan network.)

Full disclosure: My law firm, though not me, has done some work for Boeing’s real estate division over the years, and I have friends in the company, but that’s not what has me scratching my head. There’s an echo of the ports deal here –a possible fundamental misjudgment about what the American public thinks about such matters, and public opinion matters a great deal when it comes to rallying support for strong and sustained national defense spending. I talked with Assistant to the President and White House Deputy Chief Joel Kaplan about the contract on today’s show, (transcript here and the audio will be here later) and wasn’t persuaded that the White House has a strong case as a result, and I didn’t even have the time to even begin the national security conversation, but this is going to be a huge debate in the weeks ahead.


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