At a time when everyone in Con- gress is looking for some place to cut spending, we once again rise to endorse a proposal by U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles to block a U.S. Air Force contract for aircraft that would be built by Brazilian-based Embraer. The 13th District representative’s campaign is getting some traction, with eight members of the congressional Manufacturing Caucus signing a letter to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, but this deal should have been quashed long ago by the Obama administration, by the U.S. House, which holds the purse strings, and by the Air Force itself. Here’s why:
The Obama administration should have done everything in its power to see that the contract went to Kansas-based Beechcraft over a company controlled by a foreign government. It’s not just about jobs, its about the United States maintaining a logical level of control over its national defense contractors and subcontractors.
Congress should have opposed it because it is, after all, about jobs — American jobs. Why put taxpayer money in the pockets of foreign entities, when it could be funneled into and recirculated through the U.S. economy?
And the Air Force should have squelched the deal because the government of Brazil continues to harbor and protect a fugitive accused of murdering one of their own, U.S. Air Force Reserve Maj. Karl Hoerig, a veteran of 200 combat missions over Iraq and Afghanistan. Hoerig’s body was found in his Newton Falls home in 2007, but by that time, his wife, Claudia Hoerig, who had once been a Brazilian citizen, had fled to Brazil. That country has steadfastly refused to extradite Claudia Hoerig to the United States, where Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins is eager to try her for murder. She was indicted by a Trumbull County grand jury on a charge of aggravated murder with a gun specification.
Ryan, who has been joined by some members of Congress — but far too few — has made appeals to the State Department to put pressure on Brazil, but has gotten less than satisfactory responses from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the present secretary, John Kerry. He is pursuing legislation that would restrict immigrant visas for Brazilian nationals, which only makes sense because Brazil has sent a clear message to the United States: If a Brazilian murders an American in cold blood and can make it back to Brazil before U.S. prosecutors connect the dots, Lady Justice is not only blind, her hands are tied.
And now Ryan is making an appeal on fiscal and trade grounds.
The initial contract with Embraer for 20 planes to be delivered to Afghanistan is worth at least $427.5 million. But as the letter from the Manufacturing Caucus to Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon, R.-Calif., and Ranking Member Adam Smith, D-Wash., points out, these planes could eventually be sold to 27 allied countries and the value of the contract could soar to $10 billion. That’s an enormous shot in the arm for Brazil’s aerospace industry, and a serious loss for U.S. corporate and labor interests.
An under-reported story
One of the mysteries of the news business is some stories capture the imagination of the national press and get legs, while other languish.
The story of Claudia Hoerig, a naturalized U.S. citizen accused of murdering her Air Force pilot husband and then escaping to her native country has all the elements that should give the story “legs.” So far, that hasn’t happened. Add the irony of the Air Force buying planes from the country that is protecting her, and the potential loss of U.S. jobs to a foreign defense contractor and maybe — just maybe — this story will begin to get the attention it deserves.