Via a reader:
The State Department has warned Boeing Co. that the aerospace titan could be fined up to $47 million because it sold commercial airliners to China and other countries without obtaining an export license for a tiny electronic chip that has defense applications, The Seattle Times reported Wednesday.
Although it recently obtained permission to export the chips, Boeing didn’t wait.
Early last year, the government conceded Boeing’s right to export the technology as a civilian item rather than a military one. But the State Department alleges that between 2000 and 2003 the company showed “a blatant disregard for the authority of the department,” by misrepresenting facts and making false statements on shipping documents to get around the export restrictions.
Boeing contends it ignored State Department edicts because its lawyers said the department was “without legal authority” to regulate the exports.
The case involves the export of jets that contain a gyroscopic microchip called QRS-11, used as a backup system in determining a plane’s orientation in the air.
On Boeing jets, three microchips are embedded in an instrument box. Acting together, the chips provide a three-dimensional positional reading, telling the pilot through the flight display the precise yaw, roll and pitch of the airplane.
A Boeing document obtained by The Times calls the chip technology “relatively unsophisticated,” but says it also has been used to help stabilize and steer guided missiles.
So I guess I’m not sure what this means. Was the technology not cleared until now, and Boeing didn’t wait because it knew better? Was there an honest misunderstanding? Or was the technology controlled, but since everyone has it now anyway (thanks to Boeing ignoring the State Department) the government gave up trying to regulate it?
In any event, if Boeing truly ignored the government about this sort of technology export, they should be slapped and good. According to this story, regardless of the circumstances, Boeing clearly and willfully ignored government demands, apparently by cheating on the paperwork.
The global economy: Our greatest strength and our greatest weakness.
And residents of Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and California can rest easy knowing that if they’re hit with missiles incorporating this technology, at least they’ll be “relatively unsophisticated” missiles.