Senators ask Pentagon to consider debarring United Technologies from future contracts

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., left, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., left, and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Alex Brandon/AP

Company may have caused ‘significant harm’ to national security with China sales, lawmakers say.

The two senior members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Monday asked Defense Department officials to consider suspending or debarring United Technologies Corp. from Pentagon contracts in the wake of the company’s guilty plea in June for exporting software to China that was used to develop a military helicopter.

United Technologies pleaded guilty on June 28 to violating the 1976 Arms Export Control Act and to making false statements in connection with exports to China by its subsidiary Pratt & Whitney Canada in a series of deals going back to at least August 2000.

Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and ranking member Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., charged in a letter to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and State Secretary Hillary Clinton that the export violations by United Technologies and its subsidiaries, including Pratt & Whitney Canada and Hamilton Sundstrand, “raise the concern they may have caused significant harm to our national security.”

In their letter, first disclosed by the Center for Public Integrity, Levin and McCain said they found the actions of Pratt & Whitney Canada “enormously troubling” as it supported development of a Chinese military helicopter in hopes of landing engine contracts for civil helicopters in China valued at $2 billion.

The senators said while the State Department has partially debarred Pratt & Whitney Canada from receiving export licenses, Defense has not followed suit. “We believe that the Defense Department should itself evaluate this case for the appropriateness of contract suspension or debarment.”

Levin and McCain also asked Panetta and Clinton to provide the committee with a “full assessment” of export violations by United Technologies, Pratt & Whitney Canada and Hamilton Sundstrand of “the extent of harm caused to national security.”

United Technologies ranked seventh on the Government Executive list of the top 100 Defense contractors in 2010, with $7.2 billion sales. Twelve days after United Technologies copped its guilty plea, the Army and Navy awarded the company’s Sikorsky Aircraft division a five-year, $8.5 billion contract for 653 Blackhawk helicopters.