Weapons industry-funded think tank urges Biden not to impose climate regulations on military contractor emissions

Weapons industry-funded think tank urges Biden not to impose climate regulations on military contractor emissions
Vice President Joe Biden speaks with U.S. and coalition personnel during a visit to an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, March 7, 2016. Biden's visit is part of his tour of the Middle East, which began March 7. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Kentavist P. Brackin)

A well-known conservative think tank is pushing back against the Biden administration's effort to impose climate regulations that would target military contractors.

According to In These Times writer Sarah Lazare, The Heritage Foundation is slamming the Biden administration's efforts to require military contractors to report federal contract-related greenhouse gas emissions.

Back in October, President Joe Biden's administration began amending federal procurement rules. Under the new provision, federal contractors would not only be required to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions, but also their "climate-related financial risk." Contractors would also be required to set "science-based reduction targets."

At the time, Shalanda Young, the acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, released a statement about the Biden administration's planned action. "Today's action sends a strong signal that in order to do business with the federal government, companies must protect consumers by beginning to mitigate the impact of climate change on their operations and supply chains," she said.

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In short, private defense corporations like Lockheed Martin would be forced to reveal "how much carbon pollution its F‑35 aircraft and cluster bombs actually cause," Lazare notes.

Unsurprisingly, the Heritage Foundation strongly opposes the required disclosures. Maiya Clark, the National Defense research for The Heritage Foundation's Center, recently wrote an article published by the conservative Washington Examiner criticizing the proposed changes and describing the initiative as "harmful to the 'defense industrial base' of the United States."

"The additional expense of measuring, reporting, and reducing contractors' greenhouse gas emissions would, in turn, be passed along to their customer: the Department of Defense," Clark wrote.

She also insists the proposed regulations would be unfair to the corporations that would be impacted by them.

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Clark claimed, "adding burdensome regulations to the already onerous Federal Acquisition Regulation would create a difficult or even impossible task for contractors, leading some firms to simply exit the defense market. The largest defense contractors for the biggest programs, like Lockheed Martin for the F‑35 or Huntington Ingalls for the Ford-class aircraft carrier, would somehow have to collect emissions data for their tens of thousands of subcontractors and suppliers."

Despite Clark's arguments, In These Times, pointed out the holes in her piece and highlighted the think tank's financial conflict of interest with defense contractor Lockheed Martin. Referencing statistics from a Center for International Policy (CIP) report published by Ben Freeman, Lazare writes:

Clark leaves unexplained why the financial well-being of a company that manufactured the bomb that killed 40 Yemeni children in a school bus in 2018 should be weighted more heavily than modest regulations aimed at staving off humanity-threatening climate change.

Most importantly, Clark leaves out this critical detail: Lockheed Martin is just one of numerous weapons manufacturers that has directly funded the Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation ranks ninth among the top think tanks that received funding from military contractors and the U.S. government from 2014 to 2019. Lockheed Martin and Raytheon were two of those major funders, both of which are among the largest weapons companies in the world and would be impacted by the new regulation.

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Freeman told In These Times that since the Center for International Policy report "was published, Heritage has moved towards full secrecy on donors, and doesn't publish any specifics."

"He is '100%' certain the think tank still receives funding from the weapons industry," Lazare reports.

"If they had suddenly stopped, I'd be shocked," Freeman said.

Lindsay Koshgarian, program director for the research organization, National Priorities Project, criticized the industry's opposition to the climate provision.

"The idea that the military-industrial complex is in danger is laughable," she wrote. "This is an industry that took in $3.4 trillion in public funds in the last ten years, more than half of all military spending during that time. That kind of funding should at the very least come with some accountability."

In the words of Koshgarian: "Climate change is the single biggest existential threat we face, and the military itself is a significant source of emissions. So no, we shouldn't stick our heads in the sand about how much the military-industrial complex is emitting."

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