The Military-Industrial-Think Tank Complex:

Corporate Think Tanks and the

Doctrine of Aggressive Militarism

by William Hartung and Michelle Ciarrocca

Dissident Voice
March 13, 2003

 

The aggressive first-strike military strategy now animating U.S. policy toward Iraq was developed during the 1990s by a network of corporate-backed conservative think tanks.

 

Each major element of the Bush administration's national security strategy -- from the doctrines of preemptive strikes and "regime change" in Iraq, to its aggressive nuclear posture and commitment to deploying a Star Wars-style missile defense system -- was developed and refined before the Bush administration took office, at corporate-backed conservative think tanks like the Center for Security Policy, the National Institute for Public Policy and the Project for a New American Century.

 

Unilateralist ideologues formerly affiliated with these think tanks, along with the 32 major administration appointees who are former executives with, consultants for, or significant shareholders of top defense contractors, are driving U.S. foreign and military policy.

 

The arms lobby is exerting more influence over policymaking than at any time since President Dwight D. Eisenhower first warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex over 40 years ago.

 

War Mongers

 

The theory behind Bush's war posturing towards Iraq can be found in the administration's September 2002 National Security Strategy. "While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community," states the strategy paper, "we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country."

 

This preemption doctrine is now the stated rationale for going to war against Iraq, despite the fact that Saddam Hussein and Iraq pose no immediate threat to the United States or its allies.

 

The preemption doctrine is actually misnamed. Preemption suggests striking first against a nation that is poised to attack. The Bush doctrine is much more open-ended, implying that a U.S. attack is justified if a nation or organization might pose a threat at some unknown future date.

 

The strategy of "preemptive war" set out in the Bush national security strategy can be traced to the conservative Project for a New American Century (PNAC), whose members have pressed this approach for more than a decade. In the run-up to the 2000 presidential election, PNAC published a report, "Rebuilding America's Defenses" which has served as a blueprint for the Bush-Rumsfeld Pentagon military strategy, up to and including the coining of terms such as "regime change."

 

PNAC was founded in 1997 and is headed by project directors William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, Robert Kagan, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, contributing editor at the Weekly Standard and columnist for the Washington Post, and Bruce Jackson, a long-time Lockheed Martin executive who recently left the corporation to work full time on military policy issues. Its statement of principles recalls "the Reagan Administration's success" and urges a return to a "military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges." PNAC's founding document was signed by Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and numerous others who have gone on to become major players in the Bush national security team. Defense contractor Lockheed Martin recently hired PNAC's deputy director and principal author of the report, Thomas Donnelly.

 

Nuclear Weapons: Here to Stay

 

Two decades ago, President Reagan unveiled his Star Wars scheme with the intention of rendering nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete."

 

Today, the word coming from the Pentagon's recently released Nuclear Posture Review is that nuclear weapons are here to stay. If the recommendations from the Bush administration's review are carried out, the declared purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons could change from deterrence and weapon of last resort to a central, usable component of the U.S. anti-terror arsenal.

 

The origins of this dramatic shift in U.S. nuclear policy trace to corporate-financed think tanks like the National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP). NIPP's January 2001 report, "Rationale and Requirements for U.S. Nuclear Forces and Arms Control," served as a model for the Bush administration's review. There are a number of parallels in the two reports. Both recommend developing a new generation of "usable" lower-yield nuclear weapons, expanding the U.S. nuclear "hit list" and expanding the set of scenarios in which nuclear weapons may be used.

 

Three members of the study group which produced the NIPP report are now in the administration. These include National Security Council members Stephen Hadley and Robert Joseph and Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense Stephen Cambone. NIPP Director Keith Payne -- probably best known for his infamous 1980 essay on nuclear war, "Victory is Possible" -- was appointed head of the Pentagon's Deterrence Concepts Advisory Panel, which will help the Pentagon to implement the Nuclear Posture Review.

 

NIPP is closely aligned with the nuclear weapons industry. Its advisory board includes Kathleen Bailey, who spent six years as an analyst at the Lawrence Livermore nuclear weapons laboratory, Charles Kupperman, vice president for national missile defense programs at Lockheed Martin, and Robert Barker, a 30-year veteran of Lawrence Livermore weapons lab.

 

Missile Defense: Ploy or Deploy?

 

In December, President Bush adopted another of the conservative ideologues and weapons lobbying groups' top priorities: missile defense system deployment by 2004.

 

Bush made the announcement even though the ground-based missile defense system failed its most recent test, and despite the conclusion of the December 2001 National Intelligence Estimate.

 

This paper concluded that "U.S. territory is more likely to be attacked" with weapons of mass destruction by countries or terrorist groups using "ships, trucks, airplanes or other means" than by a long-range ballistic missile. Those delivery systems will evade ballistic missile defenses, rendering useless the costly proposed investments in Star Wars technology deployment.

 

At the forefront of the missile defense lobby is the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a corporate-financed advocacy group with at least eight defense executives on its advisory board at any given time. A sixth of the Center's revenue comes directly from defense corporations.

 

CSP boasts that no fewer than 22 former advisory board members or close associates in the Bush administration. CSP alumni in key posts include its former chair of the board, Douglas Feith, who now serves as undersecretary of defense for policy, Pentagon Comptroller Dov Zakheim, Defense Policy Board chair Richard Perle, and longtime friend and financial supporter Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

 

Department of Defense, Inc.

 

It is not just industry-backed think tanks that have infiltrated the administration. Former executives, consultants or shareholders of top U.S. defense companies pervade the Bush national security team.

 

Lockheed Martin, the nation's largest defense contractor, has more connections to the Bush administration than any other major defense contractor -- eight current policy makers had direct or indirect ties to the company before joining the administration. Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney, served on Lockheed's board of directors from 1994 until January 2001, accumulating more than $500,000 in deferred director's fees in the process. Former Lockheed Chief Operating Officer Peter Teets is now Undersecretary of the Air Force and Director of the National Reconnaissance Office, a post that includes making decisions on the acquisition of everything from reconnaissance satellites to space-based elements of missile defense.

 

Northrop Grumman, which is now the nation's third largest defense contractor as a result of its recent acquisition of TRW and Newport News Shipbuilding, follows closely behind Lockheed with seven former officials, consultants or shareholders in the Bush administration. Northrop's most important link is Secretary of the Air Force James Roche, a former company vice president. The company's influence within the Air Force is reinforced by the presence of Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment and Logistics Nelson Gibbs, who served as corporate comptroller at Northrop from 1991 to 1999. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Pentagon Comptroller Dov Zakheim and Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith all had consulting contracts or served on paid advisory boards for Northrop prior to joining the administration.

 

Other ties include: Secretary of the Navy Gordon England, a former vice president at General Dynamics, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a former member of Raytheon's board of directors and consultant to Boeing, and Senior Adviser to the President Karl Rove, who owned between $100,000 and $250,000 in Boeing stock, according to disclosure forms he has filed.

 

Hogs at the Trough

 

The overarching concern of the ideologues and the arms industry is to increase military spending. On this score, they have been tremendously successful. In its two years in office, the Bush administration has sought more than $150 billion in new military spending, the vast majority of which has been approved by Congress with few questions asked. Spending on national defense is nearing $400 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2003, up from $329 billion when Bush took office.

 

In addition to the rapid increases in its yearly budget, Congress has approved $30 billion in emergency and supplemental spending for the Pentagon since 9/11. Billions more of supplemental funds have gone to the State Department for military assistance for allies and nations supporting the war on terrorism, as well as to the various agencies that have been targeted for inclusion in the Department of Homeland Defense.

 

Orders for the new high-tech weapons on display in Afghanistan include the Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM, made by Boeing, Raytheon's Tomahawk missile, and Northrop Grumman's $10 million-a-copy unmanned aerial vehicle, the Global Hawk. The FY 2003 budget includes approximately $3.2 billion for more of these systems.

 

And despite talk of "skipping a generation" in weapons procurement for the past two years, defense contractors will continue to make money off the weapons of yesterday, too. The FY 2003 budget includes more than $17 billion for Cold War relics that Rumsfeld once said he wanted to abandon. These weapons include:

 

* the Air Force's F-22 Raptor (prime contractors: Lockheed Martin, Boeing and the Pratt and Whitney Division of United Technologies; FY 2003 budget: $4.7 billion);

 

* the Navy's F-18E/F fighter plane (Boeing, General Electric and Northrop Grumman, $3.3 billion);

 

* Joint Strike Fighter/F-35 (Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, $3.5 billion);

 

* the V-22 Osprey (Boeing Vertol and the Bell Helicopter Division of Textron, $1.2 billion);

 

* the DDG-51 destroyer (Bath Iron Works and the Ingalls Shipbuilding Division of Northrop Grumman, $2.4 billion); and

 

* the Virginia class attack submarine (Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics and the Newport News Shipbuilding division of Northrop Grumman, $2.2 billion).

 

The centerpiece of the Bush nuclear doctrine, the "New Triad" of long-range strike systems, missile defenses and a revitalized nuclear weapons complex, will involve, during the next five years, at least $33 billion in spending over and above that projected by the Clinton administration. Missile defense spending for FY 2003 will exceed $8 billion, while the costs of deploying a multi-tiered missile defense system could easily reach $200 billion over the next decade -- providing a steady stream of contracts for Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.

 

Spending on the related budget category of homeland security has increased dramatically as well, from $19.5 billion in FY 2001 to $37.7 billion in FY 2003, providing yet another source of revenue for the big defense contractors.

 

Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics have all adapted their marketing strategies and are repackaging their products for use in domestic security. Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin have received a long-term, multi-billion dollar contract to beef up the Coast Guard, and General Dynamics has been awarded a $611 million contract to modernize the service's 30-year-old search-and-rescue communications system. Boeing is looking into how its sensors designed to track enemy missiles could be used to locate and identify hijacked planes. Lockheed is trying to adapt military simulators to train local emergency response teams. And Raytheon is pitching its hand-held thermal-imaging devices, designed for the military, as useful for fire fighters searching through collapsed buildings.

 

A provision in the Homeland Security Act requires government agencies to grant 23 percent of their prime contracts to small businesses, and small companies are excitedly joining the giant corporations in shopping high-tech proposals to the government.

 

Among others, Air Structures is introducing fortified vinyl domes for quarantining infected communities in the aftermath of a potential bioterror attack, Visionics is looking into designing facial recognition technology and PointSource Technologies is developing a sensor to detect biological agents in the air or water.

 

For now, the military-industrial-think tank complex is on the ascendancy.

 

Exploiting the fears following 9/11, and impervious to budgetary constraints imposed on virtually every other form of federal spending, the ideologue-industry nexus is driving the United States to war in Iraq and a permanently aggressive war-fighting posture that will simultaneously starve other government programs and make the world a much more dangerous place.

 

William Hartung and Michelle Ciarrocca are the Director and Senior Research Associate at the World Policy Institutes Arms Trade Resource Center.


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