Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cong. Reyes and the Drone Lobby

(In an interview published by El Paso Inc, an El Paso magazine, U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes indicated that he favored the deployment of drones in the U.S.-supported drug war launched in December 2006 by President Felipe Calderón. The following post follows up a Border Lines post on this yesterday.)

U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) is a major recipient of campaign contributions from industries that manufacture and service Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones.

Except for the caucus co-chairman Buck McKeon (R-Cal.), no other caucus member has received more campaign contributions from associated industries. In the 2010 election cycle, Reyes received $100,000 in contributions from the UAV industry, while McKeon received $103,000.

 In the 2010 election cycle alone, UAV-related political-action committees donated more than $1.7 million to the caucus’ 42 members, according to an investigative report (Feb. 17, 2011) by the War Is Business website.

Leading contributors to Reyes’ 2010 campaign included General Atomics, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, SAIC, Boeing, Allion Science & Technology, L-3 Communications, and Raytheon.

All are these industries are members of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (UAVSI).

UAVSI has worked closely with the UAV Caucus and its founder Cong. McKeon. The UAVSI “Advocacy” page provides an overview of all the ways its members can maximize that relationship;In addition to whatever legislation and appropriations, caucus support has manifested in the opportunity to give committee testimony, visits from Congressmen, keynote speeches, meetings with legislators on “AUVSI DAY,” roundtables, and facility tours -- but perhaps most notably, a tech fair sponsored by McKeon’s office at the Rayburn House, as noted by the War Is Business report.

Other UAV Caucus members  who were leading recipients of industry contributions included Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Maryland), Jerry Lewis (R-Cal.), Duncan Hunter (R-Cal.), and Ken Calvert (R-Cal.).

The mission of the little-known Congressional UAV Caucus is to “educate members of Congress and the public on the strategic, tactical, and scientific value of UAVs, actively support further development and acquisition of more capable UAVs, and to more effectively engage the civilian aviation community on UAV use and safety.”
In January 2011 the UAV Caucus changed its name to the Unmanned Systems Caucus.
UAV proponents, including UAV manufacturers and high-tech advocates within DHS, have not been above using the controversy over the border fence created by the Secure Border Fence Act of 2006 to promote UAVs for border security. This was a major theme at the 2008 Global Border Security Conference and Technology Expo in Austin.

Michael Rosenberg of E.J. Krause, the conference organizer, said: "Our goal is to bring together government and industry leaders to consider technology and policy strategies that move beyond the fence. The government's demand for advanced border technology is increasing and we are committed to providing a unique opportunity for government officials in homeland security and law enforcement to see first-hand what solutions are available to them.”

Another conference speaker was Rick Morgan of Aerospace Missions Corporation, the UAV development company surviving on more than $5 million in congressional earmarks by Reyes and other members of Congress in the 2005-2009 period (See Tom Barry, "Reyes the Rainmaker.")

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