I was having a good day yesterday prototyping some new products, until I read the article about BAE Systems and Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer on WSJ.com. This article got me really worked up. Sgt. Meyer (Marine MOH recipient for actions in Afghanistan) is suing defense giant BAE Systems for defamation of character.
Basically, the suit states that after Sgt. Meyer voiced his objections to BAE management about their attempts to sell advanced thermal scopes to Pakistan, his supervisor contacted the DoD to tell them that Sgt. Meyers was mentally unstable and had issues with drinking. This blocked Sgt. Meyer from obtaining a job with one of BAE’s competitors. I’m not even going to get into the blatant disrespect his supervisor (also a former Marine) showed a fellow Marine and an MOH recipient, but I am going to talk about the more pressing issue – Defense companies making the decision to let greed and profit trump common sense and the safety of our Men and Women who are serving in combat zones.
BAE was attempting to sell advanced thermal sniper scopes to the Pakistani government, according to the law suit. Sights that are superior in technology to what our own military personnel are currently using. Is it legal? Yes. Is it crossing the line into irresponsible? Absolutely. Technically speaking, Pakistan is an ally of the US. But, as they say, “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck …” Why sell game changing technology to a country that, in my humble opinion, would have no issues letting that equipment be used against our own. We’re not talking about soft goods (i.e. nylon pouches) we’re talking about technology that could give the bad guys an upper hand over the good guys. So why would a company make that decision? Simple … money. In my own experience, I passed up the opportunity to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit by selling firearms to a Middle East government. Once I found out who the end user was, I respectfully withdrew my bid. It was more important to me to be able to sleep at night, then to make a bunch of cash knowing that those firearms would most likely end up in the wrong hands and be used against us. Was the deal legal? Of course. But I just couldn’t do it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a capitalist and encourage profits for corporations. More profits usually equates to more jobs. But, you can still make a profit and have some personal convictions and integrity.
My favorite excerpt from the article is what BAE stated, “Mr. Roehrkasse, the BAE spokesman, said the decision to sell defense equipment is made by the State Department, not BAE.” No, sir, you are incorrect. The decision of what CAN be sold or exported is decided by the State Department. The decision to actually SELL defense equipment to a foreign government is solely and 100% up to the company selling that equipment.
I’m not calling for a boycott of BAE Systems or any of its brands. More than not, boycotts just end up negatively affecting the employees who have nothing to do with the corporation’s decisions. Even though BAE is a foreign (UK) company, it does employ thousands of Americans. But, I did want you all to realize that BAE Systems, who is supposedly in the business of protecting us, really is more concerned about profits than its corporate ethics. I don’t really know how to change the industry, but as veterans and citizens of this great country, we need to start demanding an ethical high ground for our defense contractors.
Check out the latest NY Times write up on increasing tension with Pakistan. There’s a reason we didn’t let Pakistan know we were going after UBL.
From back in March: “BAE Systems admitted Monday to knowingly making false statements to U.S. investigators to hide its failure to ensure compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.” Click here for the full story. What do you think? Hit the like button and spread the word.
Kit Up! contributor Bill Janson is a former Recon Marine and is the founder of Eleven 10, a tactical gear manufacturer.