- - Thursday, July 13, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Do you think this common quid pro quo between lawmakers and members of the multi-trillion dollar military-industrial-counterterrorism complex (MICC) ought to be criminal?

Last April, Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc., announced its closing of Rancho Cordova manufacturing plan in California by 2019 and moving 800 jobs to Huntsville, Alabama.

Last July, the defense and aerospace company, a premier member of the MICC, announced the assembly and testing of its AR-1 advanced liquid rocket engine at NASA’s eponymous Stennis Space Center in nearby Mississippi, one of NASA’s 10 field offices. The professed purpose is to eliminate U.S. reliance on the Russian RD-180 engine for national security space launches by 2019.

Sherlock Holmes is not necessary to deduce Aerojet Rocketdyne’s motives in moving jobs to Huntsville and assembly and testing operations to Mississippi’s Stennis Space Center: to placate or curry favor with members of Congress holding decisive influence over defense and aerospace contractors. They are Sen. Thad Cochran, Mississippi Republican and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Richard Shelby, Alabama Republican and a  member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Rep. Robert Alderholt, Alabama Republican and a member of the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Martha Roby, Alabama Republican and a member of the House Appropriations Committee. According to data released by the Federal Elections Commission, during the 2016 election cycle, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s PAC donated $4,000 to Mr. Cochran’s campaign, $4,500 to Mr. Shelby’s campaign and $3,000 to Mr. Aderholt’s campaign.

The Stennis Space Center is named after the late Sen. John Stennis, Mississippi Republican. During his long Senate career, Stennis served as chairman of both the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee. He used his considerable political influence to dictate the eponymous naming of the space center and its location in his home state of Mississippi. That is classic Washington, D.C., federal government decisions or actions pivot on political calculations, not on the economic theories of Adam Smith.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is a leading technology-based designer, developer and manufacturer of aerospace and defense products and systems for the U.S. government, including the Department of Defense, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and major aerospace and defense prime contractors. Aerojet Rocketdyne must satisfy its political overseers on the appropriations committees of Congress to flourish. Like all other defense and aerospace contractors, it knows the golden rule of politics: “He who has the gold makes the rules.” It is thus no accident that other defense or aerospace manufacturers like Boeing, DynCorp, Honeywell, and Raytheon all have a presence in Huntsville, Alabama, ably represented by Mr. Shelby.

It is likewise no accident that Aeroject Rocketdyne’s facility in the Stennis Space Center houses assembly and testing of the RS-68 engine that powers the Delta IV family of launch vehicles; the RS-25 engine that will power NASA’s Space Launch System—America’s newest heavy lift launch vehicle in development expected to become the most powerful rocket in the world; and, the RS-25 low pressure turbopump assembly.

The Stennis Space Center is ably represented by Sen. Cochran, who over Aerojet Rocketdyne’s expansion of operations there: “Mississippi’s long partnership with U.S. space agencies and the industry has led to advances in science, technology and national security. I am pleased that Aerojet Rocketdyne is expanding its activities at the Stennis Space Center to support Defense Department space launch activities.”

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Farewell Address on Jan. 17, 1961, warned that, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

In furtherance of Eisenhower’s objective, shouldn’t Congress enact a prohibition on defense or aerospace contractors choosing to locate plants or jobs substantially to ingratiate themselves with one or more members of Congress or the president of the United States?

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