Thursday, February 01, 2007

Pentagon Halts Sale of F-14 Parts Coveted by Iran

As George Wallace famously said, “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the Democrat and Republican Parties.”

In recent years that difference has dropped below three cents and is still sinking.

I won’t vote for a Democrat for the foreseeable future, but yesterday’s AP story was a refreshing reminder that Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, and John Murtha aren’t the only people who represent the Democrat party at the national level:

The F-14The Pentagon said Tuesday it had stopped selling surplus F-14 parts, announcing the step after congressional criticism of security weaknesses that had given buyers for countries including Iran access to the aircraft parts and other valuable gear.

Sales of parts from the recently retired fleet were halted last Friday, Defense Logistics Agency spokesman Jack Hooper said, adding that marketing of the parts will remain suspended until a “comprehensive review” is completed. He did not immediately elaborate.

The decision comes as a Democratic senator moves to cut off all Pentagon sales of surplus F-14 parts, saying the military’s marketing of the spares “defies common sense” in light of their importance to Iran.

Sen. Ron Wyden’s bill came in response to an investigation by The Associated Press that found weaknesses in surplus-sale security that allowed buyers for countries including Iran and China to surreptitiously obtain sensitive U.S. military equipment including Tomcat parts.

[…]

U.S. law enforcement officials believe Iran can produce only about 15 percent of the parts it needs for its Tomcats, making the Pentagon’s surplus sales a valuable avenue for spares.

The Pentagon had planned to sell about 60 percent of the roughly 76,000 parts for the F-14, viewing them as general nuts-and-bolts-type aircraft hardware that could be sold safely without restrictions.

Well done, Senator Wyden.
- - - - - - - - - -
I’ve been following this story for a while. It’s one of those scandalous affairs that make you avert your eyes from the Republicans in disgust, the same way you did from Slick Willy’s deals with the Chinese.

But the Republicans — how could they?!

Now that the United States has retired the F-14, the only country still flying them is Iran; the planes are left over from the days of the Shah. The Iranian F-14s are quite decrepit, and are not really airworthy without those spare parts.

So here’s a Republic administration fighting a war against “terror” and selling spare aircraft parts to the biggest generator of terrorism in history. But the administration has a fig leaf to cover the deal — the parts are just generic parts, usable on other aircraft besides the F-14. Not only that, they’re selling them to third parties, and not to Iran itself.

Right. Uh-huh.

When you dig deeper into the deal, it's clear that F-14-specific parts are indeed included in the package. And airplane parts, like oil, are fungible. The supply will find its way to the demand. The Iranians are going to get their parts just in time to scramble their air force against us or the Israelis during the coming confrontation.

But Senator Wyden has a mind to stop them from flying:

The Oregon Democrat’s legislation would ban the Defense Department from selling surplus F-14 parts and prohibit buyers who have already acquired surplus Tomcat parts from exporting them. Wyden’s bill, the Stop Arming Iran Act, is co-sponsored by the Senate’s No. 2 lawmaker, Democratic Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois.

[…]

“It just defies common sense to be making this kind of equipment available to the Iranians with all that they have done that is against our interests,” Wyden said Monday in an interview, adding that constituents brought up the surplus-sale security problems at his town-hall meetings over the past few days. “I just want to legislate this and cut it off permanently, once and for all.”

[…]

Wyden said his bill would cut off the sale of all surplus F-14 parts. The legislation includes all parts to cut off all opportunities for Iranian “fishing expeditions,” spokeswoman Jennifer Hoelzer said, adding that GAO investigations have found valuable surplus accidentally getting included in boxes of what are supposed to be nuts-and-bolts-type hardware.

Wyden is confident he can get the bill through the Senate in the next few months. Wyden, a senior member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also pledged greater Senate oversight of the surplus program.

In order for this kind of spare-parts deal to make it past the likes of Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush, someone would have stood to make a lot of money from the deal. A defense contractor, maybe? The government itself? Somebody needed the cash badly enough to be willing to put our own servicemen in harm’s way.

Or maybe the brass hats know something that we don’t know. Maybe they know that we’ll never have to face the Iranian air force. Maybe they know we’re not really ever going to war with Iran, that our nation doesn’t have the nerve to confront a nuclearized Iran, that we’re going to cut a deal with the mullahs, just like Reagan’s people wanted to back in the 1980s.

They say it took a Republican president to go to China. Does it take a Republican to do business with Iran?

There’s more than this caper than meets the eye. I’m sure we have Pentagon experts among our readers — if any of you want to weigh in with an opinion, please feel free.

9 comments:

Sir Henry Morgan said...

Can't tell you much about the Pentagon. However, I was a military aircraft techie for many a long year. From that I can tell you that with the modern hi-tech aircraft of the F-14 type, there is very little that could be described as "generic" - most everything is specific to the Type. Even, in some cases, down to some of the very "nuts and bolts". There are such things as Type-specific nuts and bolts.

I would reckon that Chomsky's - you may not like his politics, but don't do down his skill at this sort of analysis - concept of "privatising benefits, socialising costs" might be useful here. Some defence contractor and it's shareholders (my kind of people, as Bush might say) make big bucks - and believe me, there are big bucks to be made: a simple piece that might cost you 10 cents down the hardware store could cost $100 if it's aerospace-use certified - selling these parts. That's the privatised benefits part of the equation. The socialised costs part comes in when e.g. the Iranian Air Force shoots down an American plane with the now servicable F-14. The cost of the shot-down aeroplane is borne by the U.S. taxpayer, as are are the death-benefits for the pilot's family, or disability benefits if he's seriously injured. In addition, another defence contractor, or maybe the same one, gets even more privatised benefits by sellin the U.S. Air Force a replacement aeroplane.

All the big boys are happy - big bucks all round. Only the generalised taxpayer loses out. That's you.

Privatised benefits, socialised costs.

You ought to read Chomsky sometimes. No, I don't agree with his politics, but some of his analyses make good sense.

A big hand for the Senator.

Did that lot make sense?

Kirk Parker said...

I thought Australia was still flying the F-14? Or is the F-111 they have?

Sir Henry Morgan said...

Kirk

F-111.

I think - think - Iran was the only foreign sale of F-14s.

I'm Brit.

ExRat said...

Even if the parts are generic and not type-specific, it seems to me that the US should not make it easy for Iran to get them. Every dime they spend making parts in their own factories is a dime that they can't use to finance Hezbollah or manufacture nukes. This goes for anything else for which the US is the sole source, for example, types of oil production equipment.

Even if all we do is drive up the price Iran has to pay, it makes life that much harder for the Mullahcracy.

Captain Ramen said...

This is really much ado about nothing (note that I come from the 'kill em all' school when it comes to dealing with politicians from both parties).

When was the last time there was any air to air combat in a war? I think it was the first gulf war. That time the Iraqis managed to shoot done one of our F18s. Course what happened to the rest of the pilots that were dumb enough to challenge us in air-to-air?

The current trend seems to be that the hostile country will simply ground and hide their aircraft, waiting for US military action to blow over.

I don't think anyone seriously believes that Iran will be occupied anytime by anyone in the next hundred years; there is no reason for them to risk their obsolete yet still valuable air force. They will most likely ground their air force and instead rely upon Russian made air defense.

If our leaders had any imagination at all they would borrow a page from the show JAG and sell the Iranians defective parts.

PD111 said...

Baron - I posted this on the ICANN thread but you may not have seen it. I think that you should contact Richard North.
-----------------------------
The advantage of ICANN being in the US is that the US has a strong constitutional committment to freedom of expression. The EU, though not quite the reverse, is not keen on this principle.

I suggest that you get in touch with Richard North who runs the site

http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/

and is very active on EU policy. He is also very informed on technical matters, as he is a highly qualified engineer (I think).

scrilla said...

who cares if they have some F-14s?

their conventional military is a joke. it's the nukes that we must worry about

Sluggo_f16 said...

Big deal...and definitely a much ado about absolutely nothing. Here is the salient points:
1. Iran is the only country with F-14s
2. They might be able to get 1 in the air
3. They don't have any weapons that work with their F-14(s)
4. The parts we are talking about are wasting away on the shelves
5. The parts won't make the Iranian F-14 fleet any more capable

Bottomline: it sounds exciting but means nothing

Baron Bodissey said...

PD111 --

I saw your comment on the earlier thread, and I agree. I passed it on to the 910 Group, for the Europeans to consider. I hope the UK chapter in particular will look into it.

Honestly, you ought to sign up for the 910 Group. You'd find a lot of discussion in the forum that's right up your alley. There's a special section for UK issues.