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Defense Contracts and Arms Sales

Between 1945 (the end of World War JI) and the early 1990s. the U.S. government spent an estimated $10.2 trillion on national defense (in constant 1987 dollars). Later in the 1990s and continuing until immediately prior to the war on terrorism. the United States spent more than $270 billion per year on the military budget. a figure that is dwarfed by the costs of waging a war. The military budgets for 2003 and 2004 were almost $'400 billion per year. Most defense spending on weapons was directed toward the "Big Three" weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin. Boeing. and Raytheon which were created in a rash of military-industry mergers (Hartung. 1999). For example. Lockheed Martin was created by the merger of Lockheed with Martin Marietta. Loral Defense. the General Dynamics combat aircraft division. and many other military companies. The result is a $35·billion megacorporation that receives $18 billion annually in Pentagon contracts (Hartung.
1999). Some of the largest defense contractors have a virtual monopoly over defense contracts because they function in a market with only one buyer (the u.s. government) and few (if any) competitors who can meet Pentagon specifications for a particular item. This monopoly is especially strong when grease men (independent consultants who act as a liaison between the Pentagon and defense contractors) provide "insider" information to the corporations. Thus. defense contractors have nothing to lose: They do not have to compete on costs. and their profits are guaranteed. Frequently. these corporations do not have to prove the efficacy of their products because the Pentagon is  traditionally anxious to publicize. and occasionally deploy. new weapons systems before rivals can do so. Some members of Congress have been willing to support measures that expand the military-industrial complex because doing so provides a unique opportunity for them to assist their local constituencies by authorizing funding for defense-related industries. military bases. and space centers in their home disk triers. These activities constitute a long-standing political practice known as pork or pork barrel-projects designed to bring jobs and public monies to the home state of members of Congress. for which.they can then take credit (Greenberg and Page. 2002). Another reason for congressional support of the defense industry is that the politically powerful military industry employs millions and spends extravagantly on contributions to candidates and political parties. In 2009 President Barack Obama acknowledged that costly defense contracts and other government spending were excessive and ordered a reform of the way the federal government does business. According to Obama, "The days of giving defense contractors a blank check are over" (qtd, in Colvin, 2(09). Of the many excessive defense contracts that Ohama believed existed. he highlighted the ballooning costs of a Lockheed Martin project to build a new presidential helicopter fleet and stated that it showed how the procurement process had "gone amok" (qtd. in Colvin. 2009). Obama believed that his plan would save taxpayers $40 billion a year. but defense companies argued that they used oversight and accountability in their work and had not been running wild with taxpayers' money. It remains to be seen whether or not the Obama administration or future presidents will be able to control the billions of dollars that go into defense contracts and military spending. to which we now turn our attention.

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