- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 22, 2002

TORONTO About 175 Canadian workers have been banned from working on a new light-armored vehicle for the U.S. military because of security concerns, raising the prospect of delays in a project that has won high marks from Pentagon officials.
Union officials denounced the suspension of the workers, all of whom are dual citizens of Canada and a second country other than the United States. Most of them hold Canadian and British citizenship.
"Big Brother speaks," said John Graham of the Canadian Auto Workers union, which represents 45 of those affected. "The workers have been sent home with full pay in the meantime, but they're worried if they'll ever be back."
The workers, employed at a plant in London, Ontario, about 120 miles from the U.S. border, have been told they are subject to a U.S. law that requires workers making military materiel to have U.S. security clearances.
GM Defense, a unit of General Motors Corp., makes the vehicles known as Strykers under a $4 billion contract awarded by the U.S. Army last year.
Pentagon officials hailed the plant in March for delivering the first Stryker, the first new military vehicle accepted by the U.S. Army since the Abrams tank in the 1980s.
Lt. Gen. John Caldwell, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, predicted at a ceremony to mark the occasion that the vehicles would prove invaluable in the U.S. war against terrorism.
"We could use these in the valley now," he said, referring to an area in Afghanistan where U.S. forces were operating at the time.
Terrorists responsible for events like the September 11 attacks "grossly underestimate the power in the free world," Gen. Caldwell said. "This program is the hallmark of what can be done when we put our minds to it."
General Motors says it is abiding by the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which require military-related workers to be licensed by the State Department.
But the State Department says it could take several months to complete the process, partly because such security clearances must be approved by Congress.
A GM Defense spokeswoman says the company hopes to resolve the situation before it disrupts an already tight delivery schedule.
"The best course was for us to ensure we were compliant and send people home until we had that clarified," said company spokeswoman Sheri Woodruff.
"We are working hard to make sure it does not affect our contract with the U.S. Army, but it's too soon to say unequivocally whether it will or will not."
No matter what the outcome, she said, the company does not consider any of the affected Canadian employees to be security risks.
Still, some workers feel "insulted" by GM's order to stay away.
"If you were told you weren't trustworthy to work for your company, how would you feel?" asked Bill Walker, a 28-year veteran at the plant who holds Canadian and British citizenship.

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