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Inside the Ring
Question of the Day
GE-AVIC REVIEW SOUGHT
Rep. J. Randy Forbes has written to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta requesting a formal Pentagon review of whether a joint venture between General Electric and a Chinese aviation firm will compromise U.S. military technology.
Mr. Forbes, Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee, stated that GE’s plan to develop hardware and software for integrated modular avionics (IMA) in China for aircraft needs to be checked in detail by the Pentagon's Defense Technology Security Agency (DTSA).
“This IMA technology was developed originally for the U.S. military — specifically, the F-22 and F-35 fifth generation fighter programs — though it is now regulated as dual-use, export-controlled technology,” Mr. Forbes said in the Oct. 17 letter.
“Given [the technology’s] military origin, I am deeply concerned, once in [China], it will wind up aiding the military aviation programs of the People's Liberation Army Air Force, which is even now developing its J-20 fifth-generation fighter that appears intended to threaten U.S. air supremacy in East Asia.”
Mr. Forbes said the Pentagon has so far only conducted an informal review of the deal between GE and the Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC). He urged Mr. Panetta to immediately direct a formal review, which would examine the potential damage to U.S. national security if China diverts the technology involved to its military.
He cited China’s reputation for stealing U.S. intellectual property and technology and its aggressive cyber-espionage.
A Pentagon spokeswoman had no immediate comment.
A GE spokeswoman told Inside the Ring that the Obama administration notified the company Oct. 4 that the GE venture with the Aviation Industry Corp. of China to develop aircraft avionics does not require an export license.
“It’s important to understand that our [avionics] technology has no current direct military application, which includes no use on the F-35 or F-22 mentioned in Rep. Forbes letter,” said GE’s Jennifer Villarreal.
A congressional aide said that approval was done without the formal review sought by Mr. Forbes.
GE spokesman Rick Kennedy said earlier that no military technology is involved in the Chinese venture and that the company has taken steps to prevent current or former Chinese military officials from taking part in the deal.
The venture is also under scrutiny in Congress because GE Chairman Jeffrey R. Immelt is the Obama administration’s point man for jobs and competitiveness, raising concerns about possible Pentagon favoritism in not scrutinizing the AVIC deal.
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About the Author
Bill Gertz is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and senior editor at The Washington Free Beacon (www.freebeacon.com). He has been with The Times since 1985.
He is the author of six books, four of them national best-sellers. His latest book, “The Failure Factory,” on government bureaucracy and national security, was published in September 2008.
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