Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Best We Can Do?

A letter to the Woodstock Times, 1/31/2019:
Thanks to DeeDee Halleck for her letter about Rotron’s expansion. Here’s a bit more on that from, "The Rotron facility has the distinction of being Woodstock's only Superfund site, after Rotron poured TCE  in the groundwater for decades -- the byproduct of earlier generations of Rotron ballistic missile, tank, fighter jet, rocket launcher and warship components. . . The TCE is still there."
Sure, jobs are important. Bills have to be paid, kids have to go to school, play ball, rents have to be paid etc. Essentials and more. Rotron does a good job of supporting all that in our community. It’s just a shame that in order to survive and thrive families here in Woodstock are dependent on jobs that contribute to the horrific and inexcusable deaths of other children and families in places like Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Niger, Somalia, and Palestine – Rotron also sells essential parts for weapons to Israel. Rotron also sells warplane parts to Saudi Arabia, even as it bombs Yemen.
Is this the best we can do? 
It all comes down to dollars, huge profits for weapons manufacturers, doesn’t it? Do those executives making millions from war give a damn about the workers, or about the thousands of innocent children being injured and dying from our global war-making? Are these wars about democracy and freedom or about profits and power? 
OK, what about jobs? Yes, Woodstock needs all the jobs it can get. How about jobs that don’t indirectly contribute to death and injuries? Green economy, funding human needs creates more jobs (per dollar spent) than funding military technology. Rotron has the technology, with a little effort, to lead the effort for conversion to a “Green Economy.” If we want that, its we, the people, that must demand it. See for more on that.  
Tarak Kauff
Woodstock, NY

Monday, January 28, 2019

Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace, Love and Music -- 72 Years of Weapons Contracting

This ad for Ametek Rotron's parent division, Ametek Aerospace and Defense, appeared in Jane's Defence Weekly in 2007. As Woodstock gears up for the 50th anniversary of the festival that didn't happen here, perhaps this graphic can remind us how our town's largest employer has been making critical contributions to the hatching of tanks, warplanes, helicopters, multiple rocket launchers, etc., year in year out since 1947 ... polluting their neighbors' groundwater as they did so.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Local arms parts factory expanding

A letter to the Woodstock Times, 1/17/2019:
In the last Woodstock Times there was a casual mention in the report from the town council  that our local arms parts factory was expanding . I hope that this newspaper (the only source for local information in our community) can do due diligence and give us more substance on this development. Has Rotron received more Department of "Defense" orders? Where do their parts (and the weapons they complete) go? Are they making essential ingredients for new cluster bombs for Yemen or Israel or Saudi Arabia? 
Our local weapons contractor is similar to the thousands across this country (one in every Congressional district) that perpetuate our war economy. We tax-paying citizens deserve to know what our money is doing across the world and especially next door.
I recall the terrible environmental problems that Rotron created some years ago--with highly toxic chemicals leaching into the water table. Has that been totally remedied? Will this expansion exacerbate that sort of problem? 
DeeDee Halleck

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Woodstock's military contractor expands

In December 2018, Woodstock's Ametek Rotron was awarded $604,000 of New York State regional economic development funding for an expansion of its facilities off Route 375. Now they'll need some zoning changes to go through with the expansion project, which will bring them the latest digital technology in their quest for the ever-more-perfect weapons component.

The Rotron facility has the distinction of being Woodstock's only Superfund site, after Rotron poured TCE  in the groundwater for decades -- the byproduct of earlier generations of Rotron ballistic missile, tank, fighter jet, rocket launcher and warship components. This Woodstock Times front page from 1995 reminds us of that era. The TCE is still there.

The local economy needs all the jobs it can get, including the ten that this expansion will allegedly provide. State development grants are a great idea and to be encouraged. But even as we support militarism with over half our Federal taxes, we find that some of our State taxes are also feeding the military-industrial complex. We should demand our taxes fund human needs instead. Studies indicate that funding human needs creates more jobs (per dollar spent) than funding military technology.

State policy could be nudging companies like Rotron to devote their know-how to peaceful ends and a green economy, rather than driving them even further into the arms [pun intended] of the military.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

A glimpse of some of our neighboring military contractors

Recently Congressman Faso, whose spidery district includes Woodstock, NY, emulated the President who on arrival home from bullying NATO to hike its military spending boasted of the business he had thus drummed up for Lockheed Martin and other buddies. Being sure, like his mentor, to name-drop his beneficiaries, Faso celebrated the passage of the $700-billion military spending bill by touting some of our local military contractors: "Upstate businesses such as Ducommun AeroStructures in Coxsackie (Greene County) and Amphenol Aerospace in Sidney (Delaware County) produce components for equipment authorized in this bill that is used by our troops."

What is the nature of this equipment made with the help of our neighbors being used by our troops and how is it used? Well, for one example, the Naval Strike Missile (NSM), pictured here. The Coxsackie facility is part of the manufacturing matrix of the California-based Ducommun corporation, whose website is currently boasting of their partnership with Raytheon to build crucial components for the NSM. Much like Woodstock's Ametek Rotron, Ducommun make components and subassemblies for many big-ticket military weapons systems, for example Apache, Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters. Ducommun state in their 2017 annual report that "Our largest end-use markets are the aerospace and defense markets and our revenues from these markets represented 90% of our total net revenues in 2017", enthusing about the "uptick in defense spending that includes major platforms we serve."

As for the Amphenol facility in Sidney, which employs about 1,000 people, they also boast of making components for a whole gamut of weapons systems: tanks and ground vehicles (their website features this picture of the Stryker Command Vehicle), helicopters, aircraft, AWACS, surveillance systems and more. When we see all these weapons systems at work we should perhaps think of all the bits and pieces that are made-in-Ulster County, made-in-Greene County, made-in-Delaware County, made-all-over-the-place. Then we might wonder about all the good uses to which our society might choose to put all this ingenuity, skill, hard work and resources, and reflect on how many more jobs (per dollar invested) these other uses provide compared to the military options.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The US is responsible for half of all global arms trade

Excerpted from a report in The Guardian, Dec. 26 (with emphases added):

The sale of global arms dropped slightly last year to $80bn from 2014’s $89bn, according to a new congressional study, with the US maintaining its position as the world’s dominant supplier.

But at $40bn the US market share of weapons sales amounted to about half of all arms agreements in 2015, and more than double the orders recorded by France, its nearest rival with $15bn in sales. The US and France both grew their market shares, by around $4bn and $9bn respectively.

Russia recorded a slight decline in arms orders, dropping to $11.1bn in sales from its $11.2bn total in 2014, while China reached $6bn, double the previous year’s estimates.

The latest figures were released last week by the Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of Congress, and are considered one of the most reliable measures of the global arms trade.
US arms exports in 2016 looks set to remain broadly in line with the previous year’s sales. ...

The report’s findings conform to a study released in November that found that the Obama administration has approved more than $278bn in foreign arms sales in its eight years, more than double the total of the Bush administration, which approved $128.6bn.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

That's Not Cool

from The Indypendent

By Jesse Rubin
WOODSTOCK, NY — On the 12th annual Woodstock Volunteers Day, residents gather in the Andy Lee Field for home-cooked food, folk songs and recognition of “what is good about [their] community.”
Two volunteers tabling for the environmental group Scenic Hudson ask for signatures and email addresses at the park entrance.
Tarak Kauff, a member of the antiwar group Veterans For Peace, lends his name to the environmentalist cause.
When Kauff presents the volunteers with his own petition, they hesitate. The petition, written by a group of local activists known as Woodstock Peace Economy, asks aerospace and military contractor Ametek Rotron to switch over all its production to civilian use. The 70-year-old company is the largest employer in this town of about 6,000 residents.
The two volunteers seem to hide behind their table. “Rotron?” one asks. “I thought they only made fans.”
Kauff tells them about the campaign and about the fans’ essential role in the functioning of F-16 fighter jets, cluster bombs and predator drones.
They decline and continue asking for signatures, some of which likely come from Rotron employees.
Military Contracts
In 2015 Ametek Rotron landed $2.6 million in Pentagon contracts. Compared to Lockheed Martin — one of the largest defense companies in the world with declared revenues of $46.1 billion the same year— this number is negligible.
But for a town that came to prominence as a haven for artists and later became synonymous with ’60s-era idealism and whose council declared it “drone free” in 2014 — any Pentagon dollars are incongruous.
So say activists affiliated with Woodstock Peace Economy who have recently renewed a long-running campaign against Rotron’s manufacture of weapons parts that dates back to the 1980s.
“Located in buildings just out of sight, off Rte. 375, Ametek Rotron makes high-tech fans, balls bearings and other essential parts for weapons used to terrorize and kill people the world over,” reads the group’s latest petition. “As most of us in Woodstock support peace and not war, the signers below request that Ametek Rotron explore how to convert its manufacturing facilities to support peace and not war.”
Route 375 is a main road into Woodstock — but before reaching the downtown, which trades on its image of a hippie haven — visitors must pass an inconspicuous white sign announcing the Rotron factory. While well established, it is unknown outside of the nearby Hudson Valley towns.
Founded in 1946 by Dutch engineer J. Constant van Rijn, the Rotron Manufacturing Company patented and developed high-intensity electronics cooling fans, which soon became critical for the burgeoning aerospace market of the 1950s.
By 1958 Rotron had developed the industry standard muffin fan, a powerful but quiet electronic cooling system. In tangent with his company’s success, Rijn became known as an arts patron in Woodstock. He is known for having contributed a heating plant to the Hudson Valley Repertory Theater so the famous playhouse could operate all year long.
He even “dedicated a statue of the buddha,” Woodstock Peace Economy activist, professor and longtime Woodstock resident Laurie Kirby told The Indypendent. “It’s the largest Buddha statue in North America.”
In 1961, the same year U.S. air and ground forces officially became active in Vietnam, Rotron developed and released the Mil-B-23071 standard for AC fans — the company’s first product strictly for military use.
The U.S. military uses an updated version of this fan to this day.
In the intervening years, as the United States has consolidated its position as arms merchant to the world, Woodstock’s largest employer has steadily increased its military business.
In 2015, Rotron secured 79 Pentagon contracts, its highest number ever, and logged record profits. On the whole, the U.S. armaments industry maintained its status as the largest in the world, accounting last year for 33 percent of global military exports, or $455 billion, according to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), the financial branch of the Defense Department.
Meanwhile, the company is reluctant to admit its weapons industry involvement, instead insisting that it is merely a supplier of nonlethal technology. But research conducted by The Indypendent and activists confirms the inextricable link.
According to public Pentagon contracts, Rotron produces centrifugal fans for F-16s, Milstar satellite systems, CV-22 Osprey helicopters, long-range navy radar and M1A1 tanks.
Ametek Rotron, in addition, is the main supplier of the fuel density probe, a critical component in the operation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) aircraft including the Predator Drone.
A leaked contract dated October 1, 2009, confirms Rotron supplied 50 fans to the Israeli Air Force that year.
The final destination of the fans remains unclear, but it is likely they operate in F-16s. In addition, a recently published Pentagon contract shows that Rotron provides a $7,365 motor to the Israeli Defense Ministry, confirming the company’s ongoing direct business with that country’s government.