Senior executives from a major U.S. defense contractor toured China last month as part of their search for a foreign company to build a dry dock for U.S. Navy ships, with the help of the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. The trip raised eyebrows both inside the Pentagon and among experts who don’t believe a Chinese company should be involved in U.S. military-related projects.
The company, Ingalls Shipbuilding, is a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, which advertises itself as “America’s largest military shipbuilding company” and has built more U.S. Navy ships than any other military shipbuilder. Ingalls is based in Mississippi. The problem is, it needs a new dry dock to build ships there and says there are no American companies that can do it. So Ingalls is looking abroad for help.
Last month, senior Ingalls executives traveled to China for two weeks to visit several different ports. They also met with officials at the U.S. Consulate in Shanghai, a meeting facilitated by a very powerful Mississippi lawmaker.
“The staff of Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, has requested that Consulate Shanghai meet with a Mississippi constituent company Ingalls Shipbuilding,” wrote an official from the State Department’s legislative affairs bureau in a July 19 email I obtained. “The constituent is looking for a new Chinese vendor to build a new drydock for their shipbuilding company. They would like advice from the Consulate to walk them through how to do business in China.” more
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