Written on Wednesday, September 5, 2012 by Steve Peacock
Potential opportunities in Vietnam for U.S. information and communications technology (ICT) companies are plentiful—and yet the Obama administration will force U.S. taxpayers to shoulder the burden of exploring those possibilities on behalf of that thriving industry, which comprises several Fortune 500 companies.
Indeed, a Patriot Update review of recent federal contracting records shows how one particular federal entity, the U.S. Trade & Development Agency (USTDA), taps into the Treasury to fund exploratory missions for the ICT sector and a multitude of other industries.
Feasibility studies and “definitional missions,” or DMs, are outsourced to consultants whose flights and hotel accommodations are paid for by the U.S. government.
Contractors in these cases often are flown across the globe with the specific goal of advising the government on what steps, if any, USTDA should take next—such as infusing yet more funds for in-depth follow-up studies of a targeted nation’s business climate.
A taxpayer-funded trip to the U.S. for foreign government officials—an arrangement known as a “reverse trade mission”—is another possible recommendation resulting from the DM.
The Vietnam DM, to cite one example, seeks to “examine new opportunities related to the World Bank’s $60 million loan to the State Bank of Vietnam for financial management information systems,” USTDA said in the project’s official Scope of Work.
USTDA is pursuing this endeavor despite explicitly acknowledging in that same planning document that U.S. technology behemoths such as HP, IBM, Oracle and Cisco already have “an active presence in Vietnam.”
USTDA will pay a contractor an estimated $72,000 to visit Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, “and other sites where justified” for fourteen days—and it will do so because these particular high-tech U.S.-based multinationals “have proposed projects ranging from banking systems solutions to water monitoring technologies.”
The Obama administration will assist such companies, despite the fact that their respective 2011 revenues were well into the double- and triple-digit billions.
To put those numbers in further context, their combined revenues are more than double the size of the Gross Domestic Product of Vietnam, which the World Bank now categorizes as a “lower middle income” nation experiencing “rapid economic growth.”
Vietnam’s 2011 estimated GDP was $124 billion, as contrasted to the annual revenues of HP ($127 billion), IBM ($107 billion), Cisco ($43 billion), and Oracle ($36 billion).
USTDA as an independent White House agency arguably has a miniscule budget contrasted to other governmental behemoths; its $58 million fiscal-year 2013 budget request is overshadowed, for instance, by the hundreds of billions sought by the Department of Defense.
Similarly, agency officials annually claim that, despite this small “investment” of taxpayer funds, USTDA helps spark $3.6 billion in exports.
Opponents rebuff those claims, asserting that such transfers of resources from one group to another have no place in a free society.
The Heritage Foundation for years has targeted USTDA as one of the top federal prospects for elimination.
As the Washington, D.C., think-tank said in its report, Ten Guidelines for Reducing Wasteful Government Spending, “There is no justification for taxing waitresses and welders to subsidize Fortune 500 CEOs.”