There I was … fielding interesting export licensing questions.
When you do international business, especially in the defense business, you do get some interesting contacts. For most of my time in industry, I was in corporations with a well-staffed export compliance office – all I had to do was follow the rules in my little corner of the world. My first interesting contact was while I was assigned to Southeast Asia and it came via a third party that wanted to set me up with Vietnam to sell F-15s. I immediately reported this to the US embassy military attaché in Hanoi. Got an interesting chuckle from the embassy – “Well, they could afford them, but that won’t happen.” Next contact, perhaps a year or so later – CH-47s; US embassy response, updated: “We could really use some new helicopters for recovery of US military remains – we just had a crash in an old chopper that cost us a couple US military lives.” I don’t think that happened until much later, but obviously Vietnam and US relationships had improved.
On to another region. I got an email contact for some tower-mounted surveillance cameras in Iraq. The exchange started politely enough. I knew we sold some before their terrible civil war, so a follow-on order, especially for oil field surveillance, was not a surprise. But the equipment at that time was ITAR controlled, so certain protocols had to be followed. I provided the formats for end user certificates to be filled and returned so I could process export licenses. This is when the emails became, well, odd. I was asked a couple times if the forms were necessary. I replied yes. Then I got the terminating email: “Our customer is willing to make it personally worth your while to not have to fill in these forms, and to have you do them.” Took about 15 seconds for me to send a termination “do not contact me again” note, and another 30 seconds to forward the note to my legal staff so these guys could not end-run us through some perhaps less reputable representatives or staff in the region.
Moral: While these are business development not offset-based stories, the specter of similar requests will be there for the Offset Manager – the point of the spear is often the part broken off – don’t let it be you.