Skyjacked – The DoD Mega Billion Dollar Drone Payout

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Other exposés have touched on the regulatory blockage adversely affecting the U.S. small business end-user stakeholder. However, this one is going to highlight the damage done by DoD’s overzealous business plan based regulation. We’ll examine how the DoD lobby and the jockeying for a spot at the trough has added years to the National Airspace System (NAS) integration for small unmanned aircraft. The byproduct of the chicanery has been the suppression and undermining of the small businessperson and academic end-users. These contractor folks have fallen all over themselves scaring the public with privacy concerns and purveying the instruments of extrajudicial killings. Those two pitches have been a hard sell for John and Jane Q Public.

The public relations fiasco…

Every time a demonstration is flown for law enforcement or DHS it is usually a DoD vendor demonstrating in private, without the press and or public present. Usually it is under the guise of the system demonstrated being proprietary. WHAT?! You are demonstrating a piece of equipment (for sale) to a public agency without the public’s participation. That makes folks feel warm and fuzzy.

Second is the Extrajudicial Killing Machine (EKM). Most of the time, when we see folks protesting they have an effigy of the EKM. On one, side you have the vendor and the lobby talking about how great the system is and the other side saying yes, at killing innocent women and children. Even being associated with the EKM is indefensible no matter how much lip gloss you slather on the pig.

Those two examples are ones that you cannot get past the public no matter how much blood money you throw at it.

Some folks think that a concerted plan is too much to be believed, but it shouldn’t be when one considers the FBO windfall from the last several years of our shooting overseas contingency operation. Back in the day the DoD vendors used to at least spend some of their own profits investing in new products and services that would help support the warfighter. Well, during the last contingency cycle things have evolved. Now, this reinvesting is primarily done on contract with government money. The checkbook that had been flung wide open, and the days of no expense being spared are over. This has only recently come to an abrupt halt, and most of the ever-expanding companies have been cut off of the easy money. They aren’t sure how to capture the commercial market, but they can’t have any upstarts cutting in on the shrinking profit margins. Their game is high stakes regulatory lockout.

Wow, they are greedy now what?

The hucksterism has taken greed to dazzling new heights, and any semblance of restraint or decorum is lost on a group that is hooked on earmarks and the beltway score. They’ve worked anyone and everyone who’ll take campaign contributions, even able to win over staunch opponents like Diane Feinstein. Ms Feinstien has expressed reservations about drones in the recent past. Her opposition appears to soften a skosh when it comes to campaign contributions from the manufacturers. (See below)

Many times I have mentioned or written about the DoD lobby or Big 6 (and their ilk) and people usually slump back in disbelief that the Federal game can be that rotten. I think that when we collectively look at events from the last few years, many amongst the citizenry are overwhelmed and in disbelief at the state of this once great nation. That friend, is just an observation and a dissertation that will have to hold for another time.

The shot callers AKA the Big 6 for the sake of brevity…

Who are Big 6, and what do they want? Well, there isn’t any official cadre of vendors that have been put down in any secret ritual or chiseled in stone as some secret society with a proprietary handshake. Unfortunately, it is nothing that elaborate or sophisticated, hardly intricate enough that we would need to enlist the services of the chap that wears the Deerstalker. The same names keep popping up all over the lobbying and regulatory circuit. So what are they after? First and foremost control, but ultimately they want more mega billions from the public trough.

We will use General Atomics as our small private Defense contractor case study. The defense haul for 2008 was a paltry $215,395,510. However, it shot up to a robust $602,050,083 for 2010. Their total take is purported to be over $2.5 billion thus far. Time to break out your hanky as it has recently been reported that they have now fallen on hard times. (Boo Hoo)

Northrop Grumman, on the other hand, has only fallen below a 16% gross profit margin once since 2009. Most of the time they average north of 20% and as high as 24.10%. Margins way beyond what most normal businesspeople would think about in their wildest dreams.

On a side note, management has informed the worker bees that they will have to do more with less. I guess they have to save a couple of bucks to help get the foray into healthcare off of the ground?? The overlay onto healthcare should give everyone trepidations.

Here are some of the names that repeatedly show up in order of influence.

Buck McKeon – AKA the Predator king (Chairman House Armed Service Committee)

Campaign contributors include:

Lockheed Martin ($65,750) Just a smidge under what they charge the government per Hellfire missile.

General Dynamics ($60,000)

Northrop Grumman ($50,500)

General Atomics ($38,800)

Boeing ($31,750)

BAE Systems ($25,750)

Raytheon ($24,000)

* Sourced from www.opensecrets.org

These might have been bad bets as Buck is not bucking for reelection. On the other hand, the gravy train was good while it lasted.

Dianne Feinstein (Chair Committee on Intelligence and Sub-committee on defense appropriations, but no conflict of interest here!)

Campaign contributors include:

General Atomics ($56,750)

General Dynamics ($43,500)

BAE Systems ($40,000)

Northrup Grumman ($30,800)

* Sourced from www.opensecrets.org

Current FAA UAS ARC –

Northrop Grumman

General Atomics has 2 representatives (AKA – “The small business team”)

Insitu/Boeing (Same representative is co-Chair of RTCA sc-228)

AeroVironment (Same representative is the Chair of ASTM F-38)

Lockheed Martin

Honeywell

Rockwell-Collins

Raytheon

MITRE (On the FAA payroll)

Then there are the advocacy and industry groups funded and supported by the same gang of downtrodden businesspeople. All of this goes on under the nose of the folks in the public sector who are supposed to be working for the publics best interest. However, most are preoccupied with junkets and vying to onramp to the DoD gravy train. I don’t think an Ivy League MBA is required to figure out if working all four corners of the game makes dollars and sense, and possibly why you can’t make any. With that said you can see what high dollar institutional dysfunction has done for you.

Happy Chinese New Year!

 

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Patrick Egan
Editor in Field, sUAS News Americas Desk | Patrick Egan is the editor of the Americas Desk at sUAS News and host and Executive Producer of the sUAS News Podcast Series, Drone TV and the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition. Experience in the field includes assignments with the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Battle Lab investigating solutions on future warfare research projects. Instructor for LTA (Lighter Than Air) ISR systems deployment teams for an OSD, U.S. Special Operations Command, Special Surveillance Project. Built and operated commercial RPA prior to 2007 FAA policy clarification. On the airspace integration side, he serves as director of special programs for the RCAPA (Remote Control Aerial Photography Association).