- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2011

GE-CHINA VENTURE PROBED

Pentagon technology security officials are set to meet with General Electric Co. officials on Thursday to discuss security concerns related to the transfer of jet avionics technology to China.

The meeting was called after congressional staff pressed the Pentagon to review whether China could divert U.S. commercial jet technology to military systems, as Beijing has done with missile, jet and satellite know-how.

GE spokesman Rick Kennedy said the meeting with officials of the Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA) was prompted by news reports criticizing GE’s joint venture with the state-run Aviation Industry Corp. of China, or AVIC.

“This doesn’t involve military technology,” Mr. Kennedy said.

The meeting is one of several GE has had with administration officials, including earlier sessions with Pentagon, Commerce and State Department officials.

The Pentagon has been under pressure for months from members of Congress concerned about China’s record of diverting civilian technology for military purposes, and its reputation for abusing intellectual property.

Rep. J. Randy Forbes, Virginian Republican, expressed concern about the joint venture.

“The American people have the right to be appalled that one of their largest corporations is giving away our technological edge and a large segment of our jobs to our nation’s largest military and commercial competitor,” Mr. Forbes said in a statement.

Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he has serious concerns that China will exploit the technologies involved in the joint venture for its military buildup.

China has a history of close cooperation between its civil and military sectors,” he said. “The GE-AVIC joint venture has not been adequately reviewed by the Department of Defense and I am not convinced that there are appropriate safeguards in place to prevent the transfer of GE avionics technology into military applications.”

The GE-AVIC deal also is raising political concerns among some in Congress about possible government favoritism toward GE: Company chief executive Jeffrey R. Immelt heads the Obama administration’s jobs and competitiveness program.

The Pentagon has not formally reviewed the technology transfer involved in the GE-AVIC joint venture because no formal export licenses were sought, and GE insists its safeguards are sufficient to protect any data leakage.

However, defense officials are concerned that helping China develop commercial avionics will boost its large-scale jet fighter program, which includes a new J-20 stealth jet first flown in January.

According to a DTSA statement to Congress in June, when GE first discussed the Chinese venture in 2009, “DTSA technical experts raised questions about the technology as well as the industrial and intellectual property security at the proposed facility [in China].

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