A war of words has broken out between BAE Systems and the US government after a report by the Pentagon inspector general found that sensitive weapons technology linked to a major fighter jet programme may have been "compromised" due to allegedly lax oversight by the UK defence company.
The report didn't cite a single instance of leaks from the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) programme, the largest defence project in the world. It is being led by Lockheed Martin, the US defence giant, along with several foreign groups, including BAE. But the report said: "The advanced aviation and weapons technology for the JSF programme may have been compromised by unauthorised access at facilities and in computers at BAE Systems, and incomplete contractor oversight may have increased the risk of unintended or deliberate release of information to foreign competitors."
Access to military technology has been a sticking point throughout the project, especially given that BAE is developing a rival jet, the Eurofighter Typhoon. The report was published after the Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog, got access to it through a Freedom of Information Act request.
BAE reacted angrily to the report's findings, which pointed to the possibility of leaks but provided no evidence that any had actually occurred.
In a statement, BAE said: "BAE Systems strongly disagrees with the suggestion that we did not perform required audits and fully comply with our Special Security Agreement. That suggestion is simply false."
It added: "The [Department of Defence] inspector general explicitly found no instances of unauthorised access to classified or export control information on the JSF programme. We strongly disagree with the IG's suggestion that, nonetheless, such information may have been compromised in some unidentified way by unauthorised access at BAE Systems. There is no basis whatsoever for that conclusion."