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Commentary

Top Defense Contractor Handed China Technical Docs on Our Best Weaponry, Here Is the DOJ's Infuriating 'Punishment'

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The defense contractor Honeywell was recently fined $13 million by the State Department for allegedly violating international arms trafficking laws after it was found that the company exported sensitive technical drawings of American military technologies to China and other countries in 2018.

Honeywell is alleged to have exported technical details of the F-35, F-22, B-1B, C-130, A-7H and A-10 aircraft, as well as the Tomahawk Cruise Missile and the M1A1 Abrams Tank to multiple countries including China, according to The Drive.

According to the report, state officials believe that the transfer of information harmed American national security.

Despite this alleged damage, a news release from the State Department announced that the department and Honeywell had reached a settlement that will see Honeywell pay damages of $13 million, of which the first $5 million will be suspended provided that the company spends the money on strengthening its compliance program.

The release states that the transferred information “contained engineering prints showing dimensions, geometries, and layouts for manufacturing castings and finished parts for multiple aircraft, gas turbine engines, and military electronics to and/or within Canada, Ireland, Mexico, the People’s Republic of China, and Taiwan.”

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Was Honeywell's settlement too lenient?

“The settlement demonstrates the Department’s role in strengthening U.S. industry by protecting U.S.-origin defense articles, including technical data, from unauthorized exports,” the news release reads. “The settlement also highlights the importance of obtaining appropriate authorization from the Department for exporting controlled articles.”

Regardless of the State Department’s positive outlook, many online expressed disbelief at such an apparently lax punishment, which effectively amounts to a slap on the wrist for Honeywell.

“The fact that people aren’t going to prison over this is shocking,” open-source intelligence account OSINTtechnical tweeted.

Honeywell asserted that the leaked information had “no impact on national security and is commercially available throughout the world,” according to The Drive.

Such a statement is certain to raise eyebrows, however, given China’s continuous attempts to outmaneuver U.S. military technologies, particularly in the aerospace domain.

Indeed, according to the government’s own charging statements against Honeywell, “certain violations harmed U.S. national security,” and “certain violations involved unauthorized exports of technical data designated as Significant Military Equipment.”

Any defense contractor ought to be well acquainted with the law regarding the transfer of sensitive documents abroad. This is especially true for Honeywell, however, as the State Department acknowledged, the company had already committed similar acts in 2016 “despite purporting to have implemented corrective actions to prevent such violations in the future.”

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Honeywell is a multinational conglomerate with a market capitalization of over $157 billion at the time of this writing.

That such a company should get away with paying $8 million and further investing $5 million in itself for 34 separate charges of disclosing sensitive military technical details is absurd, and represents what ought to be the bare minimum of punishment for the potential harm that such actions could inflict upon the nation.

Transferring the technical details of American aircraft and missiles would undoubtedly help any potential adversary, but particularly China, who is already engaged in an escalating standoff with the U.S. over Taiwan that could very easily spill over into outright armed conflict.

That Honeywell sent such specifications to America’s greatest adversary and yet will face no real form of accountability speaks volumes of the rotating door of influence between the defense-industrial complex and the federal government.

America deserves more. Indeed, its security demands it.

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Andrew Thornebrooke is a writer specializing in foreign policy and national security. He is the executive editor of The Rearguard and a MA candidate in military history at Norwich University.
Andrew Thornebrooke is an American writer working at the crossroads of communications and policy advocacy. He is an expert in intranational conflict and national security.

He is the founder of The Rearguard, a weekly column dedicated to exploring issues of culture, defense, and security within the context of a receding Western Civilization.

Andrew is a MA candidate in military history at Norwich University where his research focuses on non-state military actors, partisanship, and the philosophy of war. A McNair Scholar and public speaker, he has presented research at several institutions including Cornell, Fordham, and the CUNY Graduate Center.

His bylines appear in numerous outlets including The Free-Lance Star, Independent Journal Review, InsideSources, The Lowell Sun, and The Western Journal.
Nationality
American
Topics of Expertise
Defense; Military Affairs; National Security




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