Pentagon grand theft

This past week I stumbled upon an interesting research study by a renowned Security Studies scholar by the name Jeffrey Sinclair titled: Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon Grand Theft.

The study gave an encyclopaedic account of the corrupt symbiotic relationship between some actors within the Military Industrial Complex and the Pentagon as far as defence contracts are concerned.

Sinclair states that Lockheed-Martin, a US top weapons contractor, has migrated to Washington DC from southern California because that’s where the money is and that Lockheed rakes it in from the federal treasury at the rate of $65 million every single day of the year.

The study shows that from nuclear missiles to fighter planes, Lockheed has come to dominate the weapons market in a way that the Standard Oil Company used to hold sway over the nation’s petroleum supplies.  And it all happened with the help of the federal government, which steered lucrative no bid contracts Lockheed’s way, enacted tax breaks that encouraged Lockheed’s merger and acquisition frenzy in the 1980s and 1990s and turned a blind eye to the company’s criminal rap sheet, ripe with indiscretions ranging from bribery to contract fraud. Sinclair posits that Lockheed stands almost alone as it not only serve as an agent of US foreign policy, from the Pentagon to the CIA, it also helps shape it.

Like many defence industry executives, Lockheed Martin’s CEO, Crad Stevens is a former military man who cashed in his Pentagon career for a lucrative position in the private sector.

Then in 1993 he went to work at Lockheed, heading its “Corporate Strategic Development Program”. There he wrote the game plan for how Lockheed would soar past Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and the others, as the top recipient of Pentagon largesse, Sinclair pointed out in his study.

Sinclair tells us that instead of risking the competition of the marketplace, Lockheed, under Stevens’ scheme, would target the easy money from federal contracts. This strategy was also straightforward: flood the congress with campaign donations to get and keep grateful and obedient members in power. The scheme succeeded brilliantly as by the end of the 1990s, Sinclair’s study shows that Lockheed had made the transition from an airplane manufacturer with defence contracts to a kind of privatised supplier for nearly every Pentagon weapons scheme.

Then 9/11 happened, and the federal floodgates for spending on national security, airline safety and war making opened wide and haven’t closed as Lockheed has been the prime beneficiary of this gusher of federal money.

The study shows that the relationship between the company and US government has always been characterised by political bribery because US politicians who serve Lockheed’s interests get annual dispensations of corporate swill courtesy of the company’s mammoth political action committee.   Overseas, Sinclair says Lockheed has often resorted to a direct bribe of government officials. In the 1970s, Lockheed famously handed out $12.5 million in bribes to Japanese officials and organised crime figures to secure the sale of 21 Tristar aircraft to Nippon Airlines. Bribery was just a cost of doing big business.

And indeed the Corrupt Practices Act didn’t deter Lockheed from handing out financial incentives to foreign officials to speed things along. In the 1990s, Lockheed admitted to stuffing the pockets of an Egyptian official with $1.2 million dollars in order to grease the sale of three Lockheed-made C-130 transport planes to the Egyptian military, Sinclair’s study states in detail. By one account, Lockheed garners $228 in federal tax money from every household in the US each year. But when time comes to pay taxes, Lockheed pleads poverty. Of course, these kinds of special dispensations don’t come cheaply. Lockheed spends more money lobbying congress than any other defence contractor.

With Lockheed, it is sometimes difficult to discern whether it is taking advantage of US foreign policy or shaping it. Take the Iraq war. Sinclair says Lockheed’s former vice-president, Bruce Jackson, headed an ad hoc group called the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.

This coven of corporate executives, think tank gurus and retired generals included such war-mongering luminaries as Richard Perle, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Gen. Wayne Downing and former CIA director, James Woolsey.  The group eventually got a face-to-face meeting with the dark lord himself, Dick Cheney. After meeting with White House functionaries, members of the Committee would fan out on cable news shows and talk radio to inflame the fever for war against Saddam.

 The study shows that Jackson has long enjoyed close ties to the Bush inner circle. In 2002, the Bush administration called on Jackson to help drum up support in Eastern Europe for the war on Iraq.

When Poland and Hungary came on board, Jackson actually drafted their letter supporting an invasion of Iraq. His company was swiftly rewarded for his efforts through weapons contracts. Lockheed made huge profits from the Iraq war itself. Its F-117 Stealth fighters inaugurated the start of the war with the “Shock and Awe” bombing of Baghdad.

After the toppling of Saddam, Lockheed executives saw an opportunity to gobble up one of the big private contractors doing business in Iraq, Titan Corporation. The company was awarded a $10 million contract to provide translators for the Pentagon in Iraq.

Two of those translators, Adel Nakhl and John Israel, were later accused of being involved in the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. The abuse scandals didn’t deter Lockheed from pursuing its corporate greed via Titan.

Titan, which was formed amidst the Reagan defence build-up of the early 1980s, concentrated on developing software and communication packages for Pentagon programmes. Since then Titan has become a major player in the lucrative information technology market. In the past decade, Lockheed’s Information Technology sales to the Pentagon have increased by more than 400%.

But even in the IT sector, the big bucks are to be made in the burgeoning surveillance and Homeland Security businesses. All of this is a precursor to even bigger plans hatched by Lockheed and its pals in the Pentagon to develop an all-encompassing spying system called the Global Information Grid, an internet system that is meant to feed real time tracking information on terrorists suspects directly into automated weapons systems, manufactured, naturally, by Lockheed. On the battlefield of defence contractors, Lockheed has now achieved full-spectrum dominance. War is a lucrative business for Lockheed Martin.

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