WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department has barred a former Honeywell employee from all activities subject to the U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) for falsifying documents that led to numerous unauthorized exports of defense- and space-related hardware and services.
According to a Nov. 27 announcement from State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, the U.S. government’s export licensing authority for military technologies, LeAnne Lesmeister, who was a senior export compliance officer at Honeywell International, falsified documents and presented them to company officials as official State Department export authorizations. Based on the phony licenses, “Honeywell exported defense articles, including technical data, and provided defense services to various foreign persons” in violation of the Arms Export Control Act and ITAR, State said.
A State Department charging letter dated July 11 and recently made public identified several space programs as beneficiaries of the unauthorized exports, including Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system, the European-led Exomars Mars exploration mission, Argentina’s Arsat program and Eutelsat’s W6A telecommunications satellite. End users of the items and services in question were located across Europe and in South America, Canada and Israel, the charging document states.
Several of the alleged violations related to the company’s Miniature Inertial Measurement Unit, which provides stability and pointing for various types of spacecraft. On its website, Honeywell touts the system as the world standard for satellite and deep-space applications, with 40 having been launched, 120 delivered and 50 more on order.
The violations occurred from 2008 to 2012 at Honeywell International’s plant in Clearwater, Fla., where Lesmeister had worked for 27 years in export compliance, the charging document states. Her responsibilities included drafting technical assistance agreements that enable U.S. companies to share ITAR-controlled data with foreign customers, amending those agreements, requesting hardware export licenses, corresponding with the State Department and providing general export compliance support, the letter states.
Clearwater is home to the Defense & Space Electronics division of Honeywell Aerospace Systems.
Lesmeister was accused of 21 export control violations following a State Department investigation prompted by a voluntary disclosure by Honeywell officials, the department said. Honeywell terminated her employment on June 15, 2012, the charging letter states.
Attempts to locate and contact Lesmeister for comment were unsuccessful.
In several instances, Lesmeister altered existing export licenses by changing end-user names, dates or the intended purpose of the item in question, the charging letter says. Other licenses were forged outright, the letter says.
“The State Department’s Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs performed an extensive compliance review of the disclosed violations,” State’s Nov. 27 press release said. “The results of that review indicated no direct harm to U.S. foreign policy or national security.”
In a written statement, Honeywell spokesman Scott Sayres said, “Honeywell is committed to acting with integrity in all our business dealings. That’s why we immediately and voluntarily reported to the U.S. Department of State the discrepancies we discovered in export authorization documentation that led to this decision. We also took strong corrective action, including initiating a comprehensive review of our processes to ensure this type of misconduct doesn’t happen again. Appropriate disciplinary action was taken and the employee is no longer with the company. This was an isolated departure from Honeywell’s values and should not taint the hard work and honesty of our nearly 140,000 people world-wide.”
Most space-related hardware and services fall on the U.S. Munitions List, a registry of military technologies whose exports are regulated by ITAR, but the State Department has formally proposed transferring export jurisdiction for a number of these items to the less-restrictive Commerce Control List. The charging letter says the improperly exported items fall under categories 8, 11 and 12 of the Munitions List, whereas the items being proposed for the looser export restrictions fall under category 15.
According to a Dec. 3 announcement of Lesmeister’s debarment published in the Federal Register, debarred persons generally are prohibited from directly or indirectly participating in ITAR-controlled activities. “Department of State applies a presumption of denial for licenses or other approvals involving such persons as described in ITAR section 127.11,” the department said.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.