The Unwarranted Influence of America’s Global "Defense" Industry

Analyzing President Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower’s keep-an-eye-on-the-defense-industry speech of January 1961 alongside bipartisan excuses for war, only Eisenhower’s warnings stand up to current United States Department of Defense statistics.

Outsourcing trends, hugely accelerated in the 1990s, have made the Department of Defense the largest corporate entity in history. Few big corporations in the world don’t have a handy cash-cow D contract, and small businesses and schools are especially welcome to apply. ($900 per toilet seat? Let’s sell those!)

DoD contracts are dished out everyday for everything from children’s books, cosmetics, organic dinners, and movie theater tickets to good old-fashioned nano weaponry.

Hundreds of thousands of companies in at least 198 nations and territories hold prime contracts with DoD this century, including companies in China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Syria. (“Prime” doesn’t count contracted individuals and subcontracted companies.)

There were none in Iraq until 2003.

Defense is the world’s top user of fossil fuels, contributor to climate change, and most financially alluring industry. All considered, the industry has the strongest lobby power in Washington and everywhere else. Defense is also the world’s foremost motivator of advanced science and technology, a global network capable of an entirely new direction in economics–”dependent, of course, on whether it’s a good D policy or a bad D policy.

That’s where We the People come in, at least according to President Eisenhower, who particularly worried about our universities.

Said Ike: “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.”

Judging by DoD’s own stats, we’re way past that point. More than 1,100 colleges and universities have had prime contracts with the Department of Defense in the last six years. Around 950 of those are in the United States, with the rest spread across 33 countries.

Although the number of DoD general assistance contracts to schools remained relatively constant between 2000 and 2006, the 900% increase in defense-applied research contracts and total dollar amounts awarded to schools during that period would’ve made Ike toss his lunch on TV. The total number of defense-applied research contracts to schools rose from 5,887 in 2000 to 52,667 in 2006. Total dollars to schools rose from $4.4 billion in 2000 to $46.7 billion in 2006.

DoD contract trends with companies are at all-time highs, with more than 300,000 prime contractors in the United States alone; a 6,000 companies-per-state average. Between 2001 and 2006, the total amount of defense dollars to companies in most states doubled. For fiscal year 2001, companies in Texas received $9.5 billion. For fiscal year 2006, the total was $27 billion.

Between the end of World War II and December 2006, US armed forces served abroad in 159 instances. These military operations increased in frequency each decade, with 6 in the 1950s, 8 in the 1960s, 11 in the 70s, 22 in the 80s, 66 in the 90s, and 44 so far this decade.

It doesn’t take a bright citizen to make the case that peace is a healthy idea. But then there are politicians. With a bad policy, presidential candidates who don’t promise to increase defense spending have no legitimate chance in any party, thanks to big media’s industrial role. Money runs campaigns on strong defense for a reason: reelection. Defense is by far the largest job creator and money spender in all fifty states, and the dispersal of contracts to an ever-increasing variety of companies in all states and beyond is what motivates state representatives to approve every proposed defense spending increase.

The problem is bad policy excessively gives businesses our taxes to invest in their own financial growth, helps representatives, and leaves us out of the money loop. We pay defense, defense showers that money on schools and companies, and top executives buy yachts and build stadiums. State and local leaders then raise taxes to cover what taxes should cover: the people’s health and prosperity.

Good folks put their faith, families, careers, and lives on the line for what they’re told by government. They don’t have time to investigate. Every September 11 our leadership bows its collective head before reminding us to keep shopping in “the wealthiest nation” while its infrastructure crumbles.

This year our most-evil enemy told us to think about that. With a graduate program untangling defense statistics, it makes me wonder: which “side” in this supposedly black and white world has the most evil to hide?

It would better serve the people to hear Eisenhower’s speech every year instead of hollow tales about a bad guy our leaders tell us to fear yet, convenient for their personal-wealth club, apparently don’t see fit to chase down. Exploiting September 11 for profit has (among other things) legitimized the largest-ever expansion of the military industry using a nation that had nothing to do with it. That perpetuation indeed smells like bipartisan imperialism.

Whether you’re a student or selling ice cream, teddy bears, tennis balls or shovels and oil rigs, chances are you’re part of the defense industry. And in this age of confrontation with Earth’s definition of diversity, truly hard-working diverse Americans–”workers, students, parents, soldiers–”are harnessed with a national brand of business-friendly diversity that makes them equal low-income slaves for an old-fashioned, wealthy white man’s profit scheme. Ike called it unwarranted influence. Our founders called it tyranny.

Diversity is an awareness of the human family returning to unity after a long and tortuous journey, celebrating its products of division while embracing its single origin and destiny. The next logical step for humanity is a leap beyond human-centric diversity to perceiving and promoting the human family as a fully responsible component of biodiversity.

As Ike feared, economic dependence on defense growth by the perpetuation of tensions since World War II explains the existence and growth of nearly every problem we face today. Undoubtedly, he would agree that economic dependence on defending Earth’s essential diversity is a far more lucrative, healthy, lasting and prospect.

Our taxes pay for a defense that doesn’t defend our future. Our taxes go to companies that make profits we will never see. The real threat President Eisenhower spoke of is a drug that poisons society, spreads like a virus, and numbs the roots of consciousness. The American dream has become a nightmare wherein justice is irrelevant, and dishonest leaders both shun and cite hard, courageous work.

The defense industry juggernaut is not a widespread corporate conspiracy; it’s a bad-policy business trend running on inertia. Instead of calling for contractors to give up profits, change the policy, keep the network, and invest in a healthy planet.

But peace will not make money until it becomes the policy for defense, and that won’t happen without a tax rebellion, general strike, or similar surge in popular demand. (1,100 schools sounds like a student movement network.) Until the day we have a good D, the bad D pays our leaders. The people’s business is making that day arrive, because lazy government won’t surrender without a confrontation with the governed.

Meanwhile, “we must stop the terrorists in Iraq!” Terrorists, communists, whatever. Business-wise, Vietnam never ends.

That’s where we are.

At a 1992 University of Oregon event discussing the American people and their government, author Ken Kesey declared, “There are times when you gotta stand up in church and shout ‘bullshit!'”

That’s what time it is.