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Pentagon Profiteers Push Lobbying Assault to Grab More Taxpayer Dollars

Through the "Second to None" campaign, top Pentagon contractors are waging a sophisticated public relations war for the hearts and minds of Americans.

Fearful of possible defense spending cuts after a decade of unrestrained Pentagon budgets, an association representing the world’s largest defense contractors recently launched a public relations campaign to combat “forces in Congress and the [Obama] administration" that may curb purchases of weapons systems and other high-priced military gear. Dubbed “ Second to None ,” the industry effort whitewashes history in an attempt to deceive the public into taking action against a deficit-fighting decrease in military spending.

“Some extreme voices are calling for massive cuts to our national security and aerospace spending that would devastate our military, weaken our economy, and force us to cede global leadership in a time of increasing threats,” reads a breathless explanation on the group’s website.  “Even as we balance budgets, the United States must do what it takes to remain Second to None.”  

In a recent article on Second to None for the Huffington Post, however, Dan Froomkin explains that “the U.S. spends more on defense than the next 17 top-spending countries combined, according to figures compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.”  He goes on to quote long-time Pentagon watcher Winslow Wheeler who told him, “The rhetoric and hysteria about these levels [of budget cuts], compared to what they are, is really quite stunning."

A product of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) – a coalition of more than 300 defense and aerospace firms -- Second to None predicts dire consequences for “our troops, our technological future and our economic stability,” if the Pentagon’s budget is substantively decreased and calls on the public to take action by sending letters to President Obama and members of Congress in protest. Engineered to appeal to the broadest base possible, the form letter offered by Second to None warns that cuts to Department of Defense funding will endanger troops in the field and also leave the United States with only two options when faced with “growing threats” – ignore them or send in ground troops.  “Predator drones, cruise missiles, air superior aircraft and spy satellites are all the technologies that allow us to deal with modern threats without committing ourselves to another Iraq that nobody wants and America cannot afford,” reads Second to None’s template.

AIA hasn’t, however, always been as sour about the war in Iraq or its price tag.  “The industry is doing terrific,'' John Douglass, then the president and chief executive officer of AIA gushed to a group of reporters and analysts in 2007. “[T]here's a lot of work related to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan…since they're wearing everything out over there.''  That statement sounded almost as tone-deaf as that of Marion Blakey, Douglass’s successor and AIA's current president and CEO who, in 2008, touted “years of U.S. battlefield successes in Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Whatever tactical successes have been achieved by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan have paled in comparison to strategic failures that have resulted in wheel-spinning occupations that continue to this day.  This is not to say the wars haven’t seen their fair share of success stories.  In fact, it’s been companies behind the Aerospace Industries Association and its corporate chiefs who have seen the most success over the last 10 years of foreign conflict.  

AIA's Executive Committee boasts not only Robert Stevens, the chairman and chief executive officer of the largest U.S. defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, but also top corporate executives from other Pentagon power-players who have profited handsomely as a result of the Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan and 10 years of unfettered Pentagon budgets.  These firms include Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Textron, United Technologies, BAE Systems, General Dynamics, General Electric, ITT, L-3 Communications and Raytheon, none of whose executives publicly spoke out against the Iraq war or cast it as an unwanted and unaffordable conflict.  Instead, these companies and their CEOs cashed in on America’s wars.