July 9, 2012
The article caught my eye a few days ago, in the June 29th edition of the Wall Street Journal. The headline was provocative – as intended, no doubt: “UTC Helped Build China’s First Military Attack Helicopter.” That wasn’t a marketing coup for United Technologies Corporation; it was a chargeable offense against the multinational conglomerate. Worth a deep dive…
Seems that the enterprising Chinese leadership contacted Pratt & Whitney – one of UTC’s portfolio of companies that serve both civilian and military customers – with interests in P&W’s unique helicopter engines. Their claim was plans to build a new era of civilian, passenger aircraft.
After the Tiananmen Square tragedy in 1989, America moved to restrict the flow of proprietary technologies to China because of their record on human rights and their apparent moves toward sophisticating their military potential. UTC – manufacturers of the US Black Hawk attack helicopters – represents the kind of corporate producer the US restrictions would limit.
Contacted by the Chinese with their invitation to help them design and power their new generation of commercial craft before 9/11, the Canadian division of Pratt & Whitney commenced their collaboration with the Chinese, lured by the potential for future business worth hundreds of millions.
Long story (already) shortened: along the line, the UTC executives involved in the contract saw the Chinese shift their effort from civilian passenger service to military attack designs. At that point, the relationship was clearly over the legal limits… but, with a “wink, wink,” the Chinese ended up with all of the proprietary engine design from the American/Canadian suppliers… and then put the civilian program out to bid, bypassing UTC as the ultimate “winner” of the deal.
The Feds made their case, and two weeks ago leaders of the UTC unit pleaded guilty to illegally supplying China with military technology and agreed to pay more than $75 million in penalties.
The point: when commitments compete, the results demonstrate the priority of the commitments. For the executives at United Technologies Corporation, their commitment to capitalism was greater than their commitment to patriotism: when the chance to conspire with America’s competitor (enemy?) offered a sufficient pay-off, it opened a clear path to a conflicted future.
You’ll probably never have a decision of that dimension on your Monday-Friday desktop, but personal versions of that friction shows up – for most of us – on a frequent basis.
Each of us has a file of top-security commitments in our personal vaults; in that folder are the real – or, virtual – contracts that we’ve made with ourselves, with our spouse, our kids, our workplace associates… and, with God. The Enemy – God’s opponent, the Father of Lies, the Tempter who confronted Jesus in the wilderness – is constantly looking for cracks in our firewall, hoping to exploit an opportunity for compromise.
In fact, you probably have one or more offers on your desk, right now, promising to reward you with new business, or professional promotion, or financial enhancements… if you’re willing to restack the deck of your priorities and disappoint someone in your relational world in return for your self-benefit.
Those paths to perdition always start out with favorable affirmations and promising futures, but “… wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
In this election cycle, the importance of “compromise” is frequently touted as a missing quality in partisan politics. But that’s a particular kind of compromise: it happens within absolute boundaries; outside those limits, compromise becomes criminal, and it has no place in the life of the principled leader.
We now know the value of integrity for those UTC executives. What’s your price? May you, instead, be priceless…