Arms sellers calling shots

Weapons: American defense companies have a lot to gain from a Balkan war and an exploding U.S. military budget, thanks in no small part to their intense lobbying.

May 16, 1999|By Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

JOHN R. GALVIN has appeared on a number of national news shows recently, including ABC's "Nightline" and National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," trumpeting the benefits NATO.

On the shows, he was identified as dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University or as the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe.

But what the news shows haven't told us is that Galvin is also a member of the board of Raytheon Co., one of the nation's top three military contractors and corporate father of the Tomahawk Cruise missile, more than 160 of which have inflicted death and destruction on the former Yugoslavia.

Is Galvin's Raytheon connection important for the public to know about? Absolutely, because this war is good for Raytheon's bottom line -- from the short-term increased sales of cruise missiles and other military equipment, to the recent run-up in the company's stock price, to the general push in Congress for more long-term military spending.

Raytheon's stock has soared more than 20 percent since the war started (while the overall market has risen less than 10 percent).

The U.S. military-industrial complex is alive and well; indeed, stronger than ever in many respects. Though the war in the Balkans cannot be described as a corporate-driven war in the same way the Persian Gulf war was motivated by a desire to protect oil interests, corporate influence over national security decisions is at its zenith.

The tight alliance between NATO and corporate America was highlighted last month, when defense contractors joined to underwrite NATO's 50th anniversary party in Washington, D.C.

The NATO Host Committee raised more than $8 million from corporations for the party. Thirteen companies -- Ameritech, DaimlerChrysler, Boeing, General Motors, Honeywell, Motorola and United Technologies, among others -- ponied up $250,000 each to be on the board of the Host Committee. Twenty-eight others -- including Raytheon and Northrop Grumman -- gave $25,000 each.

The sponsors were not at all shy about why they were supporting the NATO shindig. "A stable NATO affords an opportunity for international companies like United Technologies to provide the products that help defend peace," said Ruth R. Harkin, vice president for government relations at United Technologies. The NATO party gave the corporate bigwigs unlimited access to 1,700 dignitaries -- including heads of states and defense ministers from 44 countries.

Defense contractors have even played a major role in determining NATO membership. Major military contractors, aiming to open new markets for their weapons, helped orchestrate the recent successful push to open the NATO club to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The payoff for the weapons suppliers will be huge -- and much of it will come from U.S. taxpayers, who will subsidize weapons purchases in new NATO countries, as new NATO members upgrade their militaries to become "interoperable" with NATO.

The U.S. Committee to Expand NATO, the prime lobbying group on the issue, was created by Bruce Jackson, Lockheed Martin's director of global development. Jackson went on to serve as an adviser to the NATO Host Committee.

Lockheed Martin, Bell Helicopter/Textron and Boeing helped fund ethnic-based lobbying groups, such as a pro-NATO expansion foundation established by the Romanian embassy, according to the New York Times.

Lockheed Martin and other major contractors lobbied hard for NATO expansion in Eastern and Central Europe. William Hartung of the World Policy Institute has reported on Lockheed-sponsored "defense planning seminars" for government and military officials in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, designed to persuade those countries to join NATO. The company made strong sales pitches, with promises of generous financing by the U.S. taxpayer.

But the crowning success of the weapons makers has been their success in defending a bloated military budget even after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Without the bogyman of a perceived Soviet threat and in a time of rigid adherence to budget austerity, the weapons makers and their allies are about to usher in a new era of military profligacy and industrial waste.

President Clinton has proposed boosting the defense budget $112 billion over six years -- on top of the monstrous $265 billion of federal money spent annually on the military. The weapons procurement budget is scheduled to grow 50 percent during the next half-decade.

Congressional Republicans are screaming for an even larger jump in military spending.

Power and influence

It is hard to imagine a greater tribute to the political power and influence of the defense industry. That influence stems from a consolidated industry that matches its famous manufacturing inefficiencies with an equally legendary, smooth-operating political machine.

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