Statement on Restrictions on Foreign Air Shows Act


1st Session


[Page: E2389]



in the House of Representatives


  • Mr. STARK. Mr. Speaker, today, I am introducing legislation to stop the use of taxpayer funds from subsidizing the U.S. defense industry at international air and trade shows.
  • Prior to 1991, the Federal Government avoided direct military involvement in air shows and arms bazaars. Aircraft were leased to U.S. companies by the Department of Defense [DOD]. The leasing fee covered the cost of insurance, ramp fees, transportation to and from the show, and payment for Government personnel needed to watch the aircraft. In June 1991, the Secretaries of Defense and Commerce changed the Pentagon practice of leasing U.S. aircraft to industry at air shows. The new practice allows for the loan of DOD aircraft to industry free of charge. This results in the U.S. taxpayer paying for the cost of industry participation at air shows and arms bazaars.
  • In 1992, taxpayers were forced to absorb the cost of a Marine aircraft that crashed on its way back from an airshow in Singapore. This crash came with the price tax of $18.9 million to American taxpayers.
  • In response to the Singapore incident, Congressman Howard Berman sponsored an amendment to the fiscal year 1993 DOD authorization bill which limits the Government's ability to engage in future air shows. It requires the President to notify Congress 45 days in advance of any proposed participation in airshows. It also requires the President to certify that participation is in the interest of our national security and to submit a cost estimate.
  • In order to circumvent the intent of the Berman amendment, DOD adopted a new standard of sending aircraft carriers to the sites of airshows on so called training missions. This practice allows the aircraft on display to do overflights of the airshow off the deck of the carrier under the guise of a defense authorized training mission. It also puts the U.S. military crew in close proximity to fraternize with prospective buyers. The Clinton administration has been drastically underreporting the involvement and cost of the United States in these airshows by excluding transportation costs. The Pentagon is able to classify shows as training missions in order to avoid reporting the real costs incurred. As a result, the costs reported by the Pentagon to Congress are 15 to 20 times less than the actual costs, and the American taxpayer pays the bill.
  • One of the many examples of this practice is the transfer of a B-2 bomber to France to do a demonstration flight at the Paris Air Show in 1995. This flight involved at least a 24-hour round trip at $14,166 per hour to operate the plane, for a total cost of more than $330,000--all at the taxpayer's expense. However, the cost report for the entire airshow submitted to Congress by the Pentagon was only $342,916.
  • The bill I am introducing today, the Restrictions on Foreign Air Shows Act bans direct participation of the defense personnel and equipment at airshows. It prohibits planes, equipment, weapons, or any related materials from being sent to exhibits on training missions unless the contractor has paid for the expenses incurred by DOD. The legislation prohibits training missions from involvement or contact with concurrent airshows. It requires contractors to lease the equipment covering insurance costs, transportation costs, ramp fees, salaries of Government personnel needed to watch the aircraft, and all other costs associated with these events. If contractors are making a profit by showing U.S. aircraft, then they should be required to pay for the advertisement of the aircraft. Additionally, the bill bans the availability of military personnel--either on site at the airshows or at nearby training missions--to assist the contractors in their sales unless the contractor pays for their services.
  • This bill does not outlaw the use of U.S. equipment in foreign airshows or trade exhibitions. It merely takes the financial burden off of the American taxpayer and puts it where it belongs--on the contractor. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.

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