So, another House lawmaker is joining Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) in calling for official government investigations into GE's partnership with China's state-owned aviation company, AVIC, to develop avionics for civil airliners.
Virginia Republican Frank Wolf wrote Defense Secretary Leon Panetta a two-page letter today backing Forbes' request that the partnership be investigated thoroughly, in part because, "it is my understanding that the technology that GE intends to share with the Chinese was originally developed for the U.S. Military."
Forbes' claimed in his Oct. 17, letter to Panetta, that the integrated modular avionics (IMA) that will be jointly developed by GE and AVIC are based on the avionics developed for the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Here's where things get weird. GE denies that the IMA it plans on developing with AVIC has anything to do with American stealth jets. A GE Spokesman told me last Friday that he had no idea where Forbes got the notion that the IMA is connected to U.S. fighters.
"Mr. Forbes did not have his facts right -- there is no correlation between the open-architecture operating system for the COMAC 919 to be provided by GE/AVIC and the avionics products provided by GE for the F-22," said GE spokesman Rick Kennedy in a Nov. 10 email.
"I don't know what he means by that," said Kennedy later that day when I asked him on the phone about Forbes' claim that the IMA is based on technology developed for U.S. stealth fighters.
Wolf's letter goes on to voice some pretty legit concerns about China stealing American intellectual property and its rampant use of cyber espionage to steal U.S. secrets.
As Chairman of the house committee that funds the Federal Bureau of Investigation, I am keenly aware of the aggressive nature of the Chinese espionage threat and its impact on our ability to create jobs in the U.S. Widespread reliance on IT systems in the private sector and government has made foreign espionage more pervasive than ever before. Chinese attacks have resulted in the theft of tens of billions of dollars of sensitive high-tech information. This stolen data is in turn provided to Chinese companies to compete against American firms.Wolf goes on to slam what GE says are strict safeguards to ensure that sensitive intellectual property isn't stolen:
Given the breadth and scope of this espionage, GE's assertions that it will be able to fully protect sensitive technology lacks credibility. According to the Aug 22 article [in the Washington Post], GE asserts "that they negotiated robust protections in their contract with AVIC. The 50-50 joint venture, for example, has strict limits on employing Chinese nationals who have a military or intelligence background. A board committee that monitors compliance with the joint venture agreement is effectively under GE's control, and can, in a dispute, overrule the full board [GE's chief of aviation systems Lorraine Bolsinger] said."Pretty strong words. GE insists that there is zero military tech involved in the deal and says that both the Pentagon and Commerce Department have reviewed the venture and said it can proceed without an export license.
Should the GE-AVIC joint venture proceed, there is no question that all of the sensitive technology involved will be completely compromised by the PLA.
Forbes and Wolf are calling for an official DoD National Security Investigation into the deal and a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. Forbes claims the Pentagon and Commerce Department have only conducted informal reviews of the partnership.
Read GE's side of the story here and scroll down to read Wolf and Forbes' letters.
For more info on concerns about joint ventures between U.S. and Chinese defense contractors, click here.