informa
/
Commentary

Indian Outsourcers Target U.S. Defense Contracts

The controversy over outsourcing U.S. technology and back-office jobs to India has been fairly heated. But that may pale in comparison with what's surely coming, given what some major Indian service providers are now chasing.
The controversy over outsourcing U.S. technology and back-office jobs to India has been fairly heated. But that may pale in comparison with what's surely coming, given what some major Indian service providers are now chasing.According to Monday's edition of the Indian daily Business Line, Tata Consultancy Services is in talks with Boeing and Lockheed Martin for pieces of the defense and aerospace contracts held by those companies. Related to that, the paper says TCS is set to increase the headcount in its aerospace engineering vertical at a clip of about 50% to 60% per year.

Meanwhile, Satyam Computer Services plans to register with India's Defence Offset Facilitation Agency, a body that's designed to facilitate cooperation between U.S. defense contractors and Indian tech firms, according to India's Business Standard newspaper.

You don't have to be psychic to predict that all this will further inflame the outsourcing debate. Accounting applications are one thing. The possibility of missile guidance systems and other key components of the U.S. arsenal being designed and coded in India is another and will no doubt provide more, uh, ammunition to those who argue that outsourcing undermines America's security.

Norm Matloff, a computer science professor at the University of California at Davis and a critic of offshoring, has said that overseas development of avionics software is a bad idea, according to a recent EE Times article. Matloff questioned whether an alliance between Avista and Silver Software, which has a software development facility in Bangalore, would actually result in any cost savings.

Those on the other side of the debate will doubtless point out that a lot of the software that runs big parts of America's critical infrastructure, including applications that help control hydroelectric dams and nuclear power plants, is already developed in India and no serious security breaches have occurred.

Even the Department of Defense relies heavily on Oracle software that is partly developed in India.

Still, the notion of American military contractors effectively farming out procurement of sensitive software to foreign, third parties is sure to keep outsourcing on the political front burner up to and through the 2008 election. Should Congress take a stand?