When I first wrote about Hawker-Beechcraft losing the U.S. Airforce light aircraft contract to Brazilian company Embraer, I didn't expect it to be as controversial as it ended up being. I even had one person on twitter tell me it was downright birther-like to think there was something fishy going on.
Turns out people above my pay grade concurred as the US Air Force has suspended the contract pending an internal investigation:
While we pursue perfection, we sometimes fall short, and when we do we will take corrective action,” says Air Force Secretary Michael Donley in a statement. Citing the ongoing litigation, he adds, “I can only say Air Force Senior Acquisition Executive David Van Buren is not satisfied with the quality of the documentation supporting the award decision.” (emphasis mine)
As Rep. Mike Pompeo alluded to when it happened, this is not something that the Air Force would do simply to bow to political pressure:
The action is highly unusual, Rep. Mike Pompeo said in a conference call.
“That’s no small undertaking,” Pompeo said. “It’s a contractual process. They have now undone that contract. The Air Force does not do that lightly.”
I've said from the beginning of the saga that the reasons for Hawker-Beechcraft's bid disqualification could be perfectly legitimate. But normally when someone is disqualified (as opposed to simply losing the bid) they are given a reason. Hawker was not and for me that raised an eyebrow. That eyebrow continued to be raised as I looked into Embraer and its cozy relationship (as in ownership stake) with the Brazilian government and the Brazilian government's cozy relationship (as in, nuclear assistance) with that bastion of peace and understanding, Iran.
Well, Embraer won't be taking the USAF's desire to be more transparent lying down and, in diplomatic terms has made clear that this could cause them to take their ball and go home.
The Brazilian government has warned Washington that the abrupt cancellation by the US Air Force of an order of warplanes from Embraer, the country’s aircraft manufacturer, could damage military relations.
“The Brazilian government learnt with surprise of the suspension of the bid process to purchase A-29 Super Tucano aircraft by the United States Air Force, in particular due to its manner and timing,” the foreign affairs ministry said, referring to Embraer’s light attack aircraft.
“This development is not considered conducive to strengthening relations between the two countries on defence affairs.”
Rep. Pompeo agrees that there should be more transparency around the process:
Normally a contract dispute wouldn't interest me so much but Embraer's connections with some of the worst people on the planet had me concerned. Call me crazy, but I find connections to Iran disturbing in a weapons contract. But believing that the DoD would make such a huge error in awarding contracts is downright conspiratorial right? They'd never do anything like that! I mean, are there any other examples of ...
U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) today led a bipartisan letter to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta calling for an end to the U.S. Governments relationship with the Russian state-controlled arms export firm Rosoboronexport, who until just three years ago had been the subject of U.S. sanctions for assisting Iran, and has for years been arming the Assad regime as they continue to commit atrocities against the Syrian people...
Oh...maybe not so conspiratorial after all?