UNICOR

Lockheed Fires Back at Prison Labor Charge

The defense behemoth claims the government is wrong to say it uses prison labor in the process of making parts for patriot missiles

I previously wrote an article about federal prisoners in the DOJ/BOP Federal Prison Industries/Unicor work program manufacturing components for Patriot missiles (in addition to cable assemblies for the McDonnell Douglas/Boeing (BA) F-15, the General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16, Bell/Textron’s (TXT) Cobra helicopter, as well as electro-optical equipment for the BAE Systems Bradley Fighting Vehicle’s laser rangefinder).

In a nutshell, Unicor (formerly known as Federal Prison Industries), is a company wholly-owned by the US government and run by the Bureau of Prisons, a division of the Department of Justice. (To be clear, this has nothing at all to do with private prisons run by outfits like the Corrections Corporation of America (CXW) or The Geo Group (GEO). This is a United States government program operating in government-run institutions.)

The story was picked up by Wired magazine’s Danger Room, and the tale of the Patriot missile/Unicor connection began making the rounds.

Then, this morning, an email from the Lockheed Martin (LMT) Missiles and Fire Control division arrived in my inbox:
SUBJECT: A Correction Of Your Patriot Story Is Required

Justin:

We have been in contact with the U.S. Army Aviation & Missile Command Lower Tier Project Office, who is responsible for the Patriot missile program, and have received confirmation that absolutely no part or component produced by Unicor is being or has ever been used in the PAC-3 Missile, of which Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor.

The U.S. Army Lower Tier Project Office has made an official, written request of Unicor to remove all references to the PAC-3 Missile from its Web site as soon as possible.

We respectfully request that a correction to your story be made immediately that clearly states that no component or part from Unicor has been or is being used in the production or repair of the PAC-3 Missiles, and that you expunge all references in the story to Lockheed Martin and the PAC-3 Missile.

Clearly, the story as written is completely inaccurate when it comes to Lockheed Martin and the PAC-3 Missile, and the comments made by those you interviewed in your story that specifically mention PAC-3 and Lockheed Martin are also inaccurate as a result of being predicated upon incorrect assumptions.

I am more than happy to discuss this matter should you wish to speak in person.

Craig Vanbebber
Senior Manager – Media Relations
Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control
972-XXX-XXXX (office)
214-XXX-XXXX (cell)

Well, color me confused. If Unicor is printing untruths based on “incorrect assumptions,” then someone has some explaining to do:

unicor 3

Please click here to see the Unicor Electronics Video.  Hear the claims for this government work–right from the horse’s mouth. 
Further, Unicor’s own marketing materials exude a considerable amount of pride in the fact that they have been such an integral part of the PAC-3 program:
unicor guided missile

(Click HERE to access this section of Unicor’s website for their video presentation.)

If you can’t quite make out what it says, or if it is taken down from their web site (we have it on file), here are the relevant sections:

“UNICOR/FPI has successfully implemented surged production to supply electronics and electrical components for Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missile propulsion, guidance and targeting systems.”

It goes on to explain:

“We assemble and distribute the Intermediate Frequency Processor (IFP) for the PAC-3 seeker. The IFP receives and filters radio-frequency signals that guide the missile toward its target.”

Unicor also proudly points out:

“The Patriot Advanced Control (PAC-3) missile is launched from canisters, many of which have UNICOR/FPI-manufactured cable assemblies linking the ignition and control systems.”

And then, well… there’s this video about Unicor’s Electronics

Oh, and this:

unicor 4

This information is, and has been, publicly available for a number years, hiding in plain sight. Could it possibly be that Lockheed Martin, one of the most advanced and capable defense contractors simply never happened to notice that the DoD, the Army, the Bureau of Prisons, and the Department of Justice had intentionally disseminated completely erroneous information for all to see?

I spoke with Lockheed’s Vanbebber and inquired as to how the multiple US government agencies with a hand in Unicor’s operations could possibly employ such a sloppy vetting process.

“I can’t speculate as to why or how that information got in there,” Vanbebber said. “I just don’t know. You know, when you’re dealing with the government, everything goes through such an extensive approval process, but, well, the information you’ve got is just wrong. I really couldn’t tell you how this happened to slip through the cracks.”

Sounds like the Department of Justice needs to fire its proofreader.

*As of this writing, Unicor has removed any information regarding federal inmates’ role in the PAC-3 missile program

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This article is written by Justin Rohrlich and is published at http://www.minyanville.com/businessmarkets/articles/defense-federal-budget-defense-industrial-base/3/9/2011/id/33261?refresh=1

Minyanville

 

 

Will Your Job Be Reshored To A Federal Prisoner?

By Justin Rohrlich Mar 12, 2013 1:21 pm

From Minyanville…

“The good news for the jobless? US industry is now in the throes of a “reshoring” trend…

“The bad news? The Bureau of Prisons is angling to have as many reshored jobs as possible filled by federal prisoners.”

Journalist Justin Rohrlich and VLTP Executive Director, Bob Sloan have begun a project to fully expose the “new” face of prison industries and exploitation of prisoners, America’s workers and “genuine” small businesses.

images (7)

   PI workers, folsom state prison Oregon Prison Ind. Photo Inmate-Labor

 

This article presents the dilemma of a President and part of his administration working to put Americans back to work, while another part of that same administration is actively working to remove jobs from those who still have them, and put them in prison – the jobs, that is.

Unfortunately we are not describing the plot in a Grisham novel…or providing readers with a Roddenberry style “America in 2525” sci-fi mini-series…no, what is occurring now – right now in America – is a push by manufacturers and service providers for a workforce that can be made to work for pennies on the dollar, has no collective bargaining rights by law, is prohibited from unionization and requires no health or medical insurance, no paid vacations, has no representation in government and most importantly, the rest of working America has no sympathy for.  This workforce consists of the more than 2 million men and women incarcerated in state and federal prisons.

Unbelievably it is our Congress and a Federal Prison Industries board appointed by the President who recently opened up federal prison facilities and the labor of prisoners to well connected business owners.  Production lines will be assembled, prisoners assigned to work in newly built factories constructed by a private corporation wholly owned by the United States government.

We’re told by our Lawmakers and government officials that the purpose of these factories is for training of the incarcerated to make them better Americans, give them skills so they can leave prison and secure employment that lessens their desire to return to prison.  We’ll also be assured that these prisoners are not really taking jobs from our communities…the products they make will only represent a tiny segment of any consumer market.  Problem is we heard all this before thirty years ago when there were fewer than 5,000 prisoners working in less than 100 factories across the U.S.

Today there are more than 1,000 factories – and according to Professor Noah Zatz – between 600,000 and 1 million prisoners toiling away inside, making the goods we consumers purchase.  Yes, this is an entirely new era and in the future, this will be remembered as a sad benchmark in our history…when our government swung open the squeaking doors to America’s federal prisons and welcomed the corporate elite to march in and take over this slave-labor operation so each could enrich themselves even further…

…America’s workers…union leaders…don’t ever say you weren’t warned, and this could be the last opportunity you have to stop this exploitation and theft of YOUR jobs.  Please awaken to this danger, join the fight and help us save ourselves and our jobs.

Read the full Rohrlich/Minyanville article here

Why are Prisoners Building Patriot Missiles?

Alarming? Sure. But it could also inform a larger debate currently underway in Washington.

Right now, federal prison inmates in correctional institutions across America are making parts for Patriot missiles.

patriot missileThey are paid $0.23 an hour to start, and can work their way up to a maximum of $1.15 to manufacture electronics that go into the propulsion, guidance, and targeting systems of Lockheed Martin’s (LMT) PAC-3 guided missile, originally made famous in the first Persian Gulf conflict.

Surprised? Me too.

Unicor, known as Federal Prison Industries until a 1977 re-branding, is a network of over 100 factories at 70 penitentiaries within the US; a self-sustaining, self-funding company owned wholly by the government, created by an act of Congress in 1934 to function as a rehabilitative tool to teach real-world work skills to federal inmates. Unicor’s mandate dictates that prison work programs not adversely affect private sector businesses.

It has always been fairly well known that prisoners make everything from street signs, park benches — and yes, license plates — to office furniture for federal agencies like the VA and DoD (this last example being to the continuing consternation of Representative Pete Hoekstra, R-Michigan, whose district is home to Steelcase (SCS), Herman Miller (MLHR), and Haworth), but the Bureau of Prisons’ PAC-3 missile program has gone largely unnoticed — until now.

F-16For the record, federal prisoners are making more than missile components. Inmates also make cable assemblies for the McDonnell Douglas/Boeing (BA) F-15, the General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin F-16, Bell/Textron’s (TXT) Cobra helicopter, as well as electro-optical equipment for the BAE Systems Bradley Fighting Vehicle’s laser rangefinder.

Despite repeated requests, Unicor would not disclose how many inmates are currently assigned to defense-related jobs, but public records show Unicor electronics factories located at no fewer than 14 federal correctional institutions.

Here’s how the work is described on Unicor’s website:

BRIGHT STAR '80“Unicor supplies numerous electronic components and services for guided missiles, including the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) missile. We assemble and distribute the Intermediate Frequency Processor (IFP) for the PAC-3s seeker. The IFP receives and filters radio-frequency signals that guide the missile toward its target.

“We are an important supplier of complex electrical harnesses that link initiators, primers and detonators in the guided missile warheads, and connect infrared, radar and electro-optical sensor data that provide essential threat discrimination in high-clutter environments.

“Our RF cable assemblies connect and control antenna mast groups that communicate with remote missile launching stations. We supply grounding cables and shielding to protect antenna arrays from electro-magnetic interference and pulses. In addition, Unicor produces and distributes testing and repair kits that help to ensure that guided missiles and other critical ordnance are deployment ready.”

As it turns out, this practice has been hiding in plain sight for two decades; detailed in Unicor’s annual report each year, highlighted in its brochures, and explained in depth — although buried several pages deep — on Unicor.gov. The missile components made by prisoners are needles in haystacks of thousands of parts, often contracted and subcontracted out endlessly. The organization’s annual reports aren’t exactly making any New York Times best-seller lists, and the Unicor.gov website receives so few visitors, Quantcast, the Internet metrics firm, is unable to provide traffic data.

bradley fighting vehicleWith that in mind, the Unicor/Patriot missile connection took some of the top defense analysts in America by surprise. “It’s kind of mind-boggling and hair-raising to find out a major component of a national security system is being made in prisons,” says William Hartung, PhD, director of the Arms and Security Initiative at the New America Foundation, member of the Sustainable Defense Task Force, and author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex (Nation Books, 2010).

“For one thing, just the symbolism of it, God forbid, the global publicity — I don’t think using prison labor to build missiles reflects very well not just on Lockheed Martin, but on the United States,” he says. “We’re supposed to be a beacon of freedom and holding up the values of the free market. I can’t think of an example that contrasts that more starkly than doing this kind of thing.”

While sourcing components from prisons is perfectly legal, the idea makes Hartung more than a little uncomfortable.

“It just doesn’t smell right to me,” he continues. “It’s really on the cutting-edge of questionable practices. The fact that it does an end-run around organized labor is a problem. There’s no greater restriction on a worker’s rights than being stuck in prison.”

The actual logistical arrangement between Lockheed, Unicor, and the Pentagon is murky. In response to a request for details, Craig Vanbebber, of the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control division, “did quite a bit of research into… FPI/Unicor’s role on the PAC-3 missile system,” and it “appears that they are a supplier to the US Government, not a direct supplier to Lockheed Martin.” However it shakes out in the Byzantine system of federal procurement, PAC-3s rely on systems made by prisoners.

Christopher Preble, PhD, a former commissioned officer in the US Navy, author of The Power Problem: How American Military Dominance Makes Us Less Safe, Less Prosperous and Less Free (Cornell University Press, 2009), and current director of Foreign Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, was also unaware that prisoners were being used to build weapons parts. For him, the practice raises questions about a much larger policy issue currently being fiercely debated in Washington, DC — that of maintaining the so-called “defense industrial base.”

As Preble explains, the defense industry insists keeping a highly-trained, highly-skilled workforce “warm” is vital to its very existence. But if prisoners are performing apparently vital, mission-critical tasks, it casts some doubt as to the supposed delicacy of the defense industrial base. It also may further the case that a large defense budget is, as former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich wrote in an August, 2010 editorial, “an insane way to keep Americans employed.”

It echoed many of the same points laid out by Preble and Hartung in a 2009 Washington Times op-ed, which argued, “The defense budget is not a jobs program, nor should it be. Decisions on how many Humvees to buy, or how many bases to refurbish, should rest on military necessity, not economic expedience subject to political chicanery. When military procurement becomes nothing more than a series of thinly veiled pork- barrel projects, it risks exposing our troops to unnecessary risks, and ultimately undermines our security.”

Preble says, “When you talk about reductions in defense spending — and I encounter this almost daily — you have a certain set of people with a vested interest in making the argument that there is a unique defense industrial base that will be destroyed if any funding is cut; that there will be structural damage, it will not rebuild, that it must be subsidized at extremely high cost, ad infinitum, or it will disappear forever. It comes up in the context, oftentimes, when a particular weapons system is nearing the end of its previously agreed-to production cycle.”

Hartung wonders if maintaining an “efficient” industrial base by keeping production levels high for systems we do not need now but one day might; isn’t, by definition, inefficient?

“How does one square building missile components using prison labor with the notion that you need to keep a large, very expensive workforce at the ready at all times,” he says. “Maybe this means you keep technical teams together, scientists, engineers working on R&D, but that the assembly process is perhaps more fungible. It calls into question the entire industrial base argument.”

Preble says the theory “never really sat well with me” and that “the global economy is such that US manufacturers have capitalized on our comparative advantages, which are design and marketing — the beginning of the process and the end of it, which is the hard part. Everything in the middle is where we don’t have that advantage, which is why things get made elsewhere.”

“You tend to assume that weapons manufacturing requires a certain set of specialized skills,” he says. “When I hear about PAC-3 components being built by prisoners, for a guy who was always skeptical about ‘preserving the industrial base,’ it certainly doesn’t do much to assuage my doubts. If anything, it feeds into them. If you can train inmates to put together wiring harnesses for Patriot missiles, you can probably train people to do other, related jobs — and fairly quickly. When you need people, you go get them.” John O. Noonan, defense policy advisor at the Foreign Policy Initiative and former US Air Force nuclear missile combat crew commander, sees little, if any, downside to procuring military hardware from prisons. He wrote in an email message:

“As long as proper security protocols are followed, [it] looks fine. If using prison labor helps keep defense systems costs down, with minimal security risk and a clean bill of ethical health, then more power to Lockheed and sub-contracting agencies.”

There is no lack of debate among the various interested parties on the ethics of prison labor; no consensus has ever been reached on what constitutes “ethical” regarding FPI since it opened for business almost 80 years ago.

Regarding cost, the current Unicor “Electronic Capabilities” brochure claims that the prison labor can reduce certain expenditures by as much as 40%. “These cost savings have saved the Navy more than a million dollars,” says one statement [PDF].

The security protocols Noonan mentions don’t bother the Heritage Foundation’s Mackenzie Eaglen, a policy expert with a focus on the defense industrial base and the size and structure of the nation’s armed forces.

“Building one piece of one part of one missile is not going to give away the nation’s crown jewels,” she says.

However, Eaglen dismisses the idea that the defense industry may be overplaying its need to avoid budget cuts by any means necessary.

“My assumption is, this program is confined to basic manufacturing. There’s a big difference between a highly-skilled worker and someone who inserts a widget,” she says.

In fact, it appears that prison labor capabilities are becoming, if anything, more and more advanced. Unicor literature points out:

  • Our in-house prototyping, engineering, manufacturing and distribution capabilities allow us to streamline the entire design-through-delivery process, providing highly integrated services and overall time and cost savings for our customers.
  • Our team of electrical engineers and technicians are skilled in Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and can produce production-ready designs and high-quality prototypes to exacting military and commercial specifications. We recently designed, prototyped and engineered specialized lighting kits for the Army and Air Force and land mine sweepers for use in the Middle East.
  • Our engineering services include developing mechanical designs and documentation, machining and fabrication requirements, and quality assurance specifications. Our leading-edge coordinate measuring systems allow us to perform fast, accurate tolerance-checking to ensure the precision of our prototyping services.

As the very definition of war continues to evolve, Chris Preble wonders how to even accurately define “the defense industry.”

“What exactly are we talking about in preserving our ‘unique’ industrial base,” Preble says. “What exactly is that set of unique skills that, as a matter of national security, we continue to subsidize and absolutely must maintain at all costs — including the opportunity cost — of dictating that certain people be employed in certain areas, short-circuiting the market for presumably long-term objectives?

“Our ability to design militarily relevant, even revolutionary, technologies is the best in the world. Does that make every engineering school in America part of the military industrial base? Michael Dell (DELL) and Bill Gates (MSFT) dropped out of college. Where in the value chain, or as they call it in the military, the ‘development cycle,’ do you draw the line?”

On a more philosophical level, Preble is concerned that all the panic over maintaining the defense industrial base indicates a deeper problem.

“Our strength as a country is our ingenuity, our dynamism,” he says. “I get the feeling that there is a sort of lack of confidence in America’s adaptability and flexibility. I worry about locking in to a certain concept, maintaining certain platforms, certain people, certain jobs, because we somehow know for certain that those pieces of metal and electronics will the determinant factor in warfare 20 years from now. We have no idea what will be happening in the world 20 years from now. I’m concerned that we will preclude what has always been our real strong suit — our ability to succeed.”

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written by Justin Rohrlich and posted on Minyanville at

http://www.minyanville.com/businessmarkets/articles/defense-industrial-base-defense-budget-defense/3/7/2011/id/33198

Minyanville

Jobs Bill Stalls – Legislation Allowing More Corporate Access To Prison Labor Passed

A VLTP Special Report by Bob Sloan, Executive Director

LABOR UNIONS AND GROUPS – PULL THE WOOL FROM OVER YOUR EYES AND GET ACTIVELY INVOLVED NOW – BEFORE ITS TOO LATE!

Over the past two weeks VLTP published the first, second and final segments of an expose reporting on the use of prison labor in Nevada to deny jobs to local unemployed workers in Las Vegas. In researching for these articles, a very disturbing development came to light involving a lack of transparency concerning legislative action(s) taken that impact upon America’s workers – employed and unemployed alike – that must be widely reported.

VLTP would encourage readers to take a few minutes and read the full expose that links ALEC and prison industry advocates together in advancing legislation to expand prison industries nationwide.  It is filled with the legislation, individual names, corporations and links to videos of meetings where this expansion began and how Nevada is simply the latest example of sending American jobs to prison.

That being said, I am very disturbed and need to get breaking news out to DK readers about a development that will impact ALL labor in the U.S. – and in the worst way possible.  Congress has loudly argued over President Obama’s “Jobs Bill” for a couple of years now, stalling any discussion of it in the House.  At the same time Congress very, very quietly passed legislation giving Federal Prison Industries authorities the go ahead to expand their operations with two critical measures.  This was done under More →

Mr. President – You Can Stop the Transfer of Jobs From Private Sector to Prison Slave Labor

by Ex. Dir., Bob Sloan

Today I read an article entitled:

Fayette apparel plant to close; 119 to lose jobs

Though the article opened with the foregoing headline, it didn’t immediately attract a lot of attention.  More and more we read about the loss of jobs due to the closure of small businesses all across the U.S. and such reports about the disappearance of jobs have been commonplace of late.  This one is different in that it clearly identifies one of the issues at the very core of private sector job losses – prison or “slave” labor.

The Federal Prison Industries better known by its trade name, UNICOR (a corporation wholly owned by the U.S. Dept. of Justice) has become the primary manufacturer of thousands of products made for use by government programs, agencies and our armed forces. More and more products are “approved” for manufacture by UNICOR and in each case American jobs are lost as companies employing them are closed, no longer able to sustain operations after losing government contracts.

The wages paid to prisoners falls between $.35 and $1.35 per hour worked.  There are no requirements for UNICOR’s payment of benefits, unemployment or worker’s compensation insurance premiums, no vacations or to provide health insurance.  UNICOR employs more than 16,000 prisoners in more than 100 factories nationwide.  In October 2010 Attorney General Eric Holder issued a “memo” to the heads of all federal agencies and departments, instructing procurement officers: More →

Making the Most From Prison Labor

Many prisoners work within prisons producing goods and services to maintain correctional facilities, reducing the costs to taxpayers of maintaining prisoners and gaining some work skills. A much smaller number work in traditional correctional industry activities, such as for the Federal Prisons.  The ABA Subcommittee on Correctional Industries estimated that total employment of prisoners in 1997 in traditional correctional industries amounted to about 75,000 in a workforce of over 136 million persons, while just 2,400 prisoners worked for private sector industries (ABA, figure 3).  Federal Prison Industries, UNICOR, employs about 17,000 inmates. With nearly 2 million inmates in 1999 the majority of whom are in state and federal prisons where inmate work could be most readily increased, there is considerable potential scope for increasing the work activity of prisoners.

What are the likely economic consequences of an  increase in  the amount of  work prisoners do for the market outside of prisons?  Who would benefit?  Who would lose?  What would be the most efficacious way to increase the work activity of prisoners?

To read this excellent economic analysis of Prison labor, please click here where it is one of a number of articles.