The U.S. House Armed Services Committee should reconsider spending as much as $10 billion for Brazilian-based Embraer, instead of Kansas-based Beechcraft, to build planes for the U.S. Air Force.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, co-signed a letter from the House Manufacturing Caucus to Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon and ranking member Adam Smith, protesting the contract for 20 Super Tucano light air support planes to Afghanistan, worth about $427.5 million, but with a ceiling of more than $950 million.
In addition, as many as 27 countries can purchase this plane through the ''Building Partnership Capacity,'' funded with about $1 billion of American taxpayer money and ultimately worth about $10 billion.
This issue is especially troubling for Ryan, who has tried to resolve the murder case of Newton Falls resident and U.S. Air Force Reserve Maj. Karl Hoerig, found shot to death in his home in 2007. The prime suspect is his wife, Claudia Hoerig, who fled to her native Brazil immediately following the major's death.
A Trumbull County grand jury charged Claudia Hoerig with murder. Trumbull Prosecutor Dennis Watkins is anxious to try her. But Brazil will not extradite her to the U.S.
That makes the proposed contract with Embraer an insult to injury. The contract puts American jobs in peril for the gain of Brazilian jobs. The contract uses U.S. taxpayer money for Brazil's gain. The contract means a loss of American control over sensitive military procurements.
"It is deeply distressing that the Air Force selected a more expensive, less capable, foreign-manufactured airplane with weapons and systems unfamiliar to, and outside the control of, the United States military," Beechcraft declared in a written statement last week.
The planes were to be delivered to the Afghan military in April. However, when the contract was contested by Beechcraft, the federal government's General Accounting Office became involved.
The non-partisan GAO ruled last Thursday against Beechcraft.
Some jobs will remain in the U.S. because the American Sierra Nevada Corp. has partnered with Embraer and vows to assemble the planes in Florida.
But Beechcraft has pointed out that the parts, including weapons, will be foreign. The company also pointed out that the GAO looked at whether the Air Force followed its process and that Congress should examine whether the process is flawed.
Next is for Ryan and the manufacturing caucus to try to convince Washington to limit the contract to the initial 20 planes for the Afghani military. Hopefully a closer look proves that an Air Force bidding process that awards such a contract to Embraer is, on many levels, wrong.