War is good business

Defense industries make money in two ways. One is by persuading the government that the weapons they already have are becoming obsolete (even if they are not) and that they need to upgrade to more expensive systems to fight future threats. The other is by having governments use their weapons in wars so that they are used up so that they make profits by selling more. So wars are really good business

Is it any surprise that the defense industries spend so much money in campaign contributions and in lobbying efforts and that it is often Congress that overrides the military’s own stated needs and gives them things they don’t want? That is why ever since the Cold War ended, the US had been lurching from one war of choice to another against one new enemy after another.

New threats seem to appear each day. As the Taliban and al Qaeda became old news, we had ISIS/ISIL and now we have a new group called Khorasan that is supposed to be worse than ISIS/ISIL and you can be sure that there are other groups in the wings biding their time until the US declares that they are ready for prime time. We are in a stage of perpetual war that will end only when the US realizes that war is driving the nation into bankruptcy, the way that the Soviet Union realized this two decades ago.

But until then, there are many people who are benefiting greatly from war. Tim Shorrock looks at who is making money from the latest round of fighting and the role that the NSA is playing in it.

A massive, $7.2 billion Army intelligence contract signed just 10 days ago underscores the central role to be played by the National Security Agency and its army of private contractors in the unfolding air war being carried out by the United States and its Gulf States allies against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

INSCOM’s “global intelligence support” contract will place the contractors at the center of this fight. It was unveiled on Sept. 12 by the U.S. Army’s Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), one of the largest military units that collects signals intelligence for the NSA.

Under its terms, 21 companies, led by Booz Allen Hamilton, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, will compete over the next five years to provide “fully integrated intelligence, security and information operations” in Afghanistan and “future contingency operations” around the world.

The top contractors on the INSCOM contract are already involved in the war. Lockheed Martin, for example, makes the Hellfire missiles that are used extensively in U.S. drone strikes (in 2013, it also won a three-year contract to train INSCOM’S “Army intelligence soldiers” in “analytical and operational disciplines”). Northrop Grumman makes the Global Hawk surveillance drone, one of the most formidable weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Both companies have large intelligence units.

In its current bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria and elsewhere, the US military is using Tomahawk missiles that cost $1 million each. This is good news for Raytheon, the manufacturer of the missiles, which had faced the prospect of orders for the weapons drying up. It had been seeking to create the next generation of deadly missiles because god forbid the money saved from not buying missiles could be used to improve the lives of people rather than blowing them to bits.

Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense and military analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, says some members of Congress had already wanted to extend the Tomahawk program, including lawmakers on key committees. She says this new campaign against ISIS could convince more lawmakers that’s necessary.

“The caveat for ending the program next year, by the Navy, was always that there would be no unanticipated events that would drain current stockpiles of Tomahawks before a new missile is ready,” she says.

Forty-plus missiles hardly drains the stockpile. But Gordon Adams, an International Relations professor at American University, agrees the product line could well be extended.
That’s good news for Raytheon.

“For any contractor that is making ammunition or building a piece of equipment that’s being used in the campaign against ISIS,” he says, “the campaign against ISIS is good news about the near term future of that program.”

Not to mention for the company behind it.

It should come as no surprise that the revolving door is very present in the defense business. Former director of the NSA Keith Alexander started out in INSCOM and now has his own security consulting firm working with the same firms that INSCOM dealt with. These people trade their inside knowledge to benefit themselves and contractors while whistleblowers trying to save taxpayer money are prosecuted.

War is just another mechanism by which public money is siphoned away from useful projects that might benefit many people in order to enrich the very few. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the US deliberately hypes up the pressure for war in order to create markets for weapons that benefit certain industries. They are aided in this by the media which benefits in its own way from the extra attention that war provides, and by a Congress that also has a symbiotic relationship with the defense industry.

It should be no surprise that we are in a state of perpetual war.

Edwin Starr nailed it with his song War. The words are as true now as they were back in 1969, especially where he says, “They say we must fight to keep our freedom. But Lord knows there’s got to be a better way.”


  1. sailor1031 says

    Plus demand can always be stimulated by passing on “used” equipment to police nationwide and now to schoolboards because, doG forbid, the army can’t use an MRAP or .50 calibre if it’s not NIB. I can just see some moron on my local board of supervisors wanting to get a few tomahawk missiles for the school board ‘just in case of emergency’.

  2. Lassi Hippeläinen says

    In business you need to know marketing:
    “Khorasan is almost certainly a term that the US government has coined.”

    As for business that doesn’t have to worry about expenses, I’ll quote FTB’s own Avicenna:
    “Mr. Farah, you were not destroying their strategic tents with your tomahawk cruise missiles, they were destroying your million dollar missiles with tarpaulin and sticks.”

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