Defense companies must take corruption risk much more seriously. Companies can adopt three strategies to follow this route:
•CEOs need to speak out publicly about corruption risks and how transparent dealing is in everyone's interest—even though they will face criticism and cynicism.
•Companies need to put their own houses in order, with better ethics and compliance programs, more demanding periodic reviews of their effectiveness and better whistle-blower protection programs.
•The best and broadest way to tackle this problem, however, is for companies and governments to collaborate on a strong, global, sector-wide initiative that leads to much greater transparency in arms deals with all weapons-importing governments.
The oil and mining industries did something similar a decade ago. Together with governments, they created the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, bringing together governments and companies for more open oil exploration and production contracts. This initiative has 37 implementing governments and more than 70 companies as members.
The defense world could do this, too. It could work collaboratively across governments and companies to raise transparency and reduce corruption.
Taking these steps is key to closing the “awareness gap” and to building transparency. Without taking these actions, corruption in defense will continue to cost money and lives. It will cheat companies, investors and taxpayers out of money, and leave armed forces with substandard equipment. It is in the best interest of companies and governments to tackle this issue seriously—now, before Twitter changes the nature of the public debate worldwide.
Tap the icon in the digital edition of AW&ST for Transparency International's ratings of U.S. and European defense companies' anti-corruption policies, or go to AviationWeek.com/transparency