U.S. Drone Manufacturers Contribute Millions to Congressional Campaigns
by Joe Wolverton, II
Saturday, 14 July 2012
President Obama’s drone fever is contagious and is spreading worldwide, and the American industries that build the drones are slavering over the chance to supply the demand.
Christopher Ames, the director of international strategy development for Pentagon contractor General Atomics Aeronautical, was almost gleeful in his statement to Reuters regarding the opening of a potentially lucrative overseas market for his company’s remote control killing machines.
“There has been very considerable international interest,” he told Reuters. “There have been countries that for a long time have been asking for Predator… (the export variant) opens up those markets to us.”
Ames would not disclose which countries were expressing the most interest in acquiring his company’s drones, but he did confirm that Latin America, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia “were all areas of considerable buyer interest.”
Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks reveals that several regimes, including those in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, have tried to secure contracts to purchase armed drones from American providers but have thus far been unsuccessful.
In fairness, General Atomics isn’t the only American defense contractor anxious to peddle the Predator-style drones to other eager governments. Northrop Grumman and other companies continue to lobby Congress and the White House to ease export restrictions on drone sales. Such wide open sales could, of course, result in the drones ultimately ending up in the hands of regimes that would use the devices to harm American interests around the globe — Iran, for example.
The prohibition currently in place was established in 1987. As an article on AllGov.com reports:
In 1987, the Reagan administration joined other democracies (but not Israel) in signing an agreement that prohibited the sale of unmanned aircraft that carry 1,102 pounds for more than 186 miles at a time. Because UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] below this size are allowed, some manufacturers have begun to get around the restrictions by building smaller drones.