Just when we think we have a firm grasp on the best route to take, an item surfaces that makes us wonder who is behind the wheel.
The latest jolt came to light in the February 18 issue of USA Today titled, “Air Force One Has Link to Saudi.” (Online version headline: “Firm with Saudi ties works on Air Force One, other VIP jets.”)
The story, well written by the paper’s Tom Vanden Brook, presents the facts without opinion. Exactly what a press report is supposed to do in this era of personal editorializing that creeps into so many newscasts and journals today.
Nope, the opinions are appropriately left to those of us who carry on arguments in our own heads – the kinds that sometimes spill out into blogs and onto commentary pages.
As the story goes, a company called GDC Technics, based in Texas, is under contract with Boeing to perform interior upgrades for President Obama’s jet. It also works on the so-called Doomsday Machine, an aerial command post that stands by in case U.S. ground command and control centers are destroyed.
So far all seems reasonable and barely raises an eyebrow, especially at a time when high-level contingency measures are critical to protect the nation.
But, then we learn that GDC Technics was acquired three years ago by Saudi Arabia-based MAZ Aviation.
Now, suddenly the eyebrows, mustache and what few hairs remain on the dome start standing at attention.
The surprising point here isn’t necessarily that a Saudi-owned company is involved. In fact, by all accounts GDC is a highly reputable and secure company with full clearance by the FBI.
The subcontracted services are performed by U.S. citizens and no unsupervised access to Air Force One or to sensitive information about the aircraft are permitted, according to the article.
The surprising point is that we’re dealing with Air Force One, which should be the most secure jet in our world and presumably guarded 24/7 in remote areas such as Andrews Air Force Base, not with an old PEOPLExpress bucket of bolts that used to be parked along Exit 14 of the NJ Turnpike at Newark Airport.
Before learning of the foreign connection, one might have reasonably assumed that Air Force One, the Doomsday Machine and perhaps other craft intended to protect the nation might be touched only by companies with deep U.S. roots and no foreign leadership of any kind.
That would not only include Saudi Arabia, but China, Russia, Brazil, Germany, France, Great Britain or even Canada. Surely there must be some company – subcontractor or otherwise – firmly rooted here in the U.S. and only here in the U.S. with the proper tools, background, and expertise to handle the job.
Certainly, GDC is highly qualified and performs similar high-security technical services for key governments across the globe.
Let’s just say the revelation that its investment ownership is not located within the 50 United States was an eye opener and a head scratcher.