In an item on the US Federal Business Opportunities (FBO) website, the US military is revealed to be dependent on a few select companies for the manufacture and distribution of White Phosphorus (WP) for use in 155MM M110A2 Smoke Projectiles, which are manufactured at Pine Bluff Arsenal (PBA). According to the original synopsis, posted on 16 November 2012, the US government solicited for 180,000 lbs of WP. A heavily redacted document attached to the solicitation entitled “Justification and Approval for Other Than Full and Open Competition” asserts that:
Full and open competition need not be provided for when it is necessary to create or maintain the required domestic capability for production of critical supplies by limiting competition to items manufactured in the United States, its outlying areas, or Canada. […] The Government is aware of only one source, Monsanto, who currently manufactures WP in the US. WP requires specialized technology, skills and processes in its production. These technologies and skills must be protected within the NTIB [National Technology and Industrial Base, a term for the “persons and organizations that are engaged in research, development, production, integration, services, or information technology activities conducted within the United States and Canada”] in the event of a national emergency. […] Maintaining these skills within the NTIB is essential if the capability to produce WP is to be preserved. Without this restriction to the NTIB, there is a risk the domestic capacity to manufacture WP could be lost. […] Over the past 20 years, the majority of the manufacturing of WP moved to China and India because of lower costs and the lack of EPA regulations in those countries. In the 1990’s, there were [REDACTED] manufacturers capable of manufacturing WP in the United States; [REDACTED] Because of EPA regulations and foreign price competition, [REDACTED] closed their operations. With only one known producer of WP in the NTIB (Monsanto), the Government’s support of this domestic capability is critically important as it reduces the risk to the war fighter in times of national emergency as well as avoiding a potentially dangerous dependency upon a foreign source.
In the past, Monsanto has had an exclusive distribution agreement with distributor [REDACTED] and would not provide WP to the Government directly. As of May 2010, that agreement with [REDACTED] expired.
Much of the document is redacted, so drawing conclusions from it can be somewhat bewildering. From what I can tell, it appears that a second producer of WP within the US and Canada was never discovered so the government still gets the chemical from Monsanto through a third party distributor.
According to the FBO website, the US Army Contracting Command of Rock Island awarded this contract for the procurement of 180,000 lbs of WP to a company known as ICL Performance Products. According to the “Justification and Approval” document, this same company previously won contracts for WP provision in 2008, 2010 and 2011. As it turns out, ICL Performance Products is a subsidiary of Israel Chemicals Ltd., a “multi-national Israeli manufacturing concern that develops, produces and markets fertilizers, metals and other special-purpose chemical products.” This conglomeration began as a state-owned firm in 1968 and was privatized in 1992. Apparently, the controlling stake holder since 1995 is the Israel Corporation, which in turn is controlled by the Ofer Brothers Group.
The Ofer Brothers are Israel’s wealthiest family, mostly known for their shipping business, and became the subject of a short-lived scandal in which they were accused by multiple sources, including the US State Department, of violating international sanctions by trading with Iran. The Ofer Brothers claimed that they had the Israeli government’s approval to do so and a “Knesset committee was in the middle of a hearing on the affair when the chair was passed a note by a mysterious source, upon which the MK abruptly adjourned the hearing.” One unnamed source claimed that the docking of Ofer Brothers-owned ships at Iranian ports was to facilitate the transportation of Mossad agents in and out of Iran. It is also worth noting that the Israel Corporation-owned Zim-American Israeli Shipping Co. had previously been tied to covert action concerning Iran in 2002.
White Phosphorus shells, of course, have been incredibly controversial in recent times with allegations that the US military and IDF used them directly on civilian populations. As the US government’s own justification document puts it:
WP is a poison which can be absorbed through skin contact, ingestion, or breathing. High concentrations of the vapors evolved by burning WP are irritating to the nose, throat, lungs, skin, eyes, and mucus membranes. Because of this, WP is stored in underwater storage tanks at PBA in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.