When conservatives promote an America First foreign policy, the focus is on avoiding entanglements in foreign conflicts. The battle over continuing aid to Ukraine is at the center of that debate today, because many believe that the more the United States gets involved, the more likely Americans will be pulled directly into conflict with the Russians.
There is a good faith debate going on today on the level of support Americans should give to Ukraine whether it be a lower level of support or hundreds of billions in military aid. The America First Policy Institute’s Lt. General (Ret.) Keith Kellogg and Gloria McDonald argued on November 2, 2023 that the current “incremental armament of Ukraine and failure to establish an end state has entrapped America in an endless war.” One of the problems is that the supporters of unlimited aid have not defined victory and an end goal for that campaign. These think tankers argue that it is time to negotiate an end to that war, that has become the largest war since the end of WWII in Europe and making any further aid packages contingent on Ukrainian officials consenting to peace talks.
This same philosophy applies to government contracting. An America First contracting strategy would stress contracting for the best available services and hardware from American contractors. One problem with sending aid to Ukraine is that the money is being spent abroad instead of at home securing the border or on American infrastructure. A similar problem happens when American tax dollars are shipped to a European company creating foreign jobs and creating a flow of tax dollars overseas.
It seems like common sense that American tax dollars would be spent on American manufactured defense aircraft, tanks, and other infrastructure. Right now, French company Airbus is challenging that idea by angling for a contract to produce refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force. They are competing with an American company, and it seems like an easy call for U.S. taxpayers on an America First basis.
A big problem with contracting with Airbus is that they keep getting in trouble for breaking international law on trade practices. In 2019, the U.S. took the European Union to arbitration and won $7.5 billion for “over illegal subsidies to Airbus.” U.S Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said at the time “for years, Europe has been providing massive subsidies to Airbus that have seriously injured the U.S. aerospace industry and our workers. Finally, after 15 years of litigation, the WTO has confirmed that the United States is entitled to impose countermeasures in response to the EU’s illegal subsidies.” This is another reason why the Pentagon should not shower Airbus with billions in American taxpayer cash.
Airbus was hit again in January of 2020. The Department of Justice put out a release on January 31, 2020 that said “Airbus SE (Airbus or the Company), a global provider of civilian and military aircraft based in France, has agreed to pay combined penalties of more than $3.9 billion to resolve foreign bribery charges with authorities in the United States, France and the United Kingdom arising out of the Company’s scheme to use third-party business partners to bribe government officials, as well as non-governmental airline executives, around the world and to resolve the Company’s violation of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and its implementing regulations, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), in the United States.” It looks like Airbus has some ethical problems.
An America First philosophy as it applies to government contracting would kick Airbus to the curb thanks to the idea that we would be exporting American jobs and tax dollars to get the contract, in addition to the company having a set of ethics that would not fly in America.