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LEITNER: Hummer sale to China

- The Washington Times - Friday, June 5, 2009

COMMENTARY:

Current plans to reorganize General Motors Corp. by, in part, selling off some of its specialty automotive brands may have gone off the deep end by announcing that the Hummer brand and all its manufacturing facilities and know-how will be sold to Communist China.

The Hummer is a civilian variant of the U.S. military's Humvee - the world's most advanced multipurpose and biggest-selling military vehicle of its class. Proponents of this sale will insist the Hummer is not as rugged as its dedicated military counterpart, so there is nothing to worry about in selling its factories and technology to China.

The civilian Hummer still has enough off-road agility, maneuverability, ruggedness and hauling capacity to qualify as a military vehicle virtually anywhere on Earth. Selling the production lines to China will, no doubt, quickly result in mass production of less luxurious versions and their sale throughout the world to the most repugnant and repressive regimes, rogue militias, terrorist entities and governments hostile to U.S. interests.

Since most of these entities now rely upon Toyota 4X4 pickup trucks for their military mobility and raiding parties, they will quickly upgrade to the Hummer, which can readily be equipped with pedestal or ring mounts for machine guns, cannons, mortars or rockets.

The Chinese have a long track record of securing manufacturing licenses for civilian versions of military systems and upgrading those "civilian versions" back up to military capability. They did this with the French-designed Dauphin (PRC Z-9) helicopters by morphing them into ground attack and anti-submarine warfare missions.

We should not expect that the Hummer production lines will remain in the United States very long either. In the case of another GM/Delco spinoff sold to Chinese interests through an American frontman, the Anderson, Ind., Magnequench saw the Chinese clone its manufacturing processes and move all production to China - forever hijacking scores of U.S. jobs as well as a critical military technology - rare-earth magnets.

Not too long ago, the People's Liberation Army was prevented from purchasing the production line for the TFE-731-2A-2A gas turbine engine from the Garret engine company. The company, as well as the Chinese importer, insisted the engines would be produced in China for civilian aerospace applications. That myth was exploded after analyses revealed the engine would more likely be used to power a new generation of long-range Chinese cruise missiles.

Desperate, financially strapped, companies often engage in shortsighted and dishonest transactions that place our nation at risk while executives lie through their teeth in an attempt to brush off national security concerns.

A classic case was the so-called MD-17, a C-17 strategic military airlifter painted white with an easily replaceable electrical panel removed that otherwise allowed the rear cargo ramp to be opened in flight for tactical insertions. China and the U.S. manufacturer said it was to be used for rural mail delivery - a statement so ludicrous that the concept was eventually dropped.

At a minimum, the proposed sale of Hummer to China should be carefully reviewed by the interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the intelligence community, the State and Defense departments and the Congress.

We simply cannot trust the judgment of a desperate company as it seeks refuge in bankruptcy proceedings.

Peter Leitner is president of the Higgins Counterterrorism Research Center and previously served for 31 years in various national security positions within the legislative and executive branches of government.