by Jeff Mackler – February, 2005
Remember the term “military-industrial complex?” It used to conjure up images of an array of U.S. corporations that produced weapons of war for superprofits. President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against these military contractors exercising undue influence over government.
In the 1970s the Lockheed Corporation was one of several in this field. Remember some of the others? Martin Marietta, General Electric Aerospace, Goodyear Aerospace, RCA, General Dynamics/ Fort Worth, General
Dynamics Space Systems, Honeywell EO, LTV Missiles, IBM Federal Systems, Unisys Defense, Ford Aerospace, Xerox Electro-Optical Systems, Gould Ocean Systems, Librascope, Sanders, OAO, and Fairchild Weston?
They’re all gone today, merged or acquired by one mega-corporation, the king of weapons manufacturing and all associated technologies, Lockheed Martin. The list of major competitors for government contracts has today dwindled to four, with Lockheed Martin on top, followed by General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing. The latter three combined just about equal Lockheed’s military sales.
New York Times staff writer Tim Weiner’s Nov. 28, 2004, article, “Lockheed and the Future of Warfare,” offers, perhaps inadvertently, a rare picture of an
industry and corporation that epitomize the relationship between capitalist private property and government.
Following 9/11, according to Weiner, Lockheed essentially had Pentagon approval to build as many F-22 fighter jets as possible. At $258 million each,
the jet is the most expensive ever built. Weiner paraphrases Lockheed’s $9.5-million-a-year president and chief executive officer Robert J. Stevens on the
matter. “When national security is at stake,” says Stevens, “cost is essentially irrelevant.”
Stevens continues, “This is not a business where in the purest economical sense there’s a broad market of supply and demand, and price and value can be determined in that exchange. It’s more challenging to define its [the F-22 fighter jet’s] value.” Leaving aside the formal grammatical and logical problems in Stevens’ sentence, perhaps quoted by Weiner to gently ridicule the multi-millionaire executive, the point is obvious.
In the monopolistic field of military production, price and value are barely related. The monetary value of a modern fighter jet, as measured by the cost of
the embodied labor in all its component parts and all other associated costs of production has no bearing on its selling price. The actual cost of the plane might be $5 million or $50 million; the price is quite another.
When the market is unlimited as in no other industry today, and when the competition is almost zero, corporations can charge whatever they want, especially when the purchaser is a U.S. government intent on bailing out a ruling class whose investments in non-military production bring constantly declining returns.
In the near-monopoly conditions that prevail in the weapons of mass destruction industry, the U.S. government and its financial resources essentially serve as the personal property of the ruling rich.
It used to be that corporations like Lockheed had to lie, cheat, and steal a bit to win customers, as there once was a semblance of competition in the industry.
In the 1970s Lockheed routinely paid off government bureaucrats across the globe to secure sales contracts. The former prime minister of Japan, Kaunei
Tanaka, was convicted of taking a Lockheed bribe. In 1994 Lockheed confessed to paying Egyptian officials bribes totaling $1.2 million to buy their cargo transport aircraft.
But that kind of stuff is all in the past today. “You simply have to look people in the eye and say, ‘we don’t do business that way,’” Lockheed’s senior vice president, Robert H. Trice Jr., told Tim Weiner.
Indeed, there is no need to bribe anyone to get contracts when you are virtually the only military contractor left in the industry, or at least the top dog, backed by your own government. And here we don’t use the term “own government” in the patriotic sense but almost literally.
Tim Weiner is quite blunt in this matter. “There really is no need to do business that way any more,” says this New York Times professional, “not in a world
where so much of Lockheed’s wealth flows directly from the Treasury, where competition for foreign markets is both controlled and subsidized by the White House and Congress, and where Lockheed’s influence runs so deep.”
Mr. Weiner has the facts to prove it. He states, “Men who have worked, lobbied and lawyered for Lockheed hold the posts of secretary of the Navy, secretary of transportation, director of the national nuclear weapons complex and director of the national spy satellite agency. The list also includes Stephen J. Hadley, who has been named the next national security adviser to the president, succeeding Condoleezza Rice. And further, says Weiner: “Former Lockheed executives serve on the Defense Policy Board, the Defense Science Board and the Homeland Security Advisory Council, which help make military and intelligence policy and pick weapons for future battles. Lockheed’s board includes E. C. Aldridge Jr., who, as the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, gave the go-ahead to build the F-22.”
The scenario is reminiscent of Bertolt Brecht’s famous line in his classic anti-capitalist didactic theater piece, “The Three Penny Opera”: “What is the robbing of a bank to the founding of a bank?”
Lockheed’s net sales in 2003 were $31.8 billion. The figure this year will likely rise, in a nation where “national security” spending exceeds a half-trillion dollars annually. Lockheed boasts a backlog of orders for 2005 of $75 billion.
Lockheed today sells fighter jets and other weapons of mass destruction to some 40 countries. In several instances the sales are literally financed by the U.S. government itself, as in the case of Israel, which spends much of its $1.8 billion in military aid from the U.S. on Lockheed’s F-16 fighters.
Lockheed’s government largess, 80 percent of its business, is far from limited to aircraft production.
It is the major player in providing military intelligence and information technologies to the U.S. and its international allies. It produces spy cameras
on land and in space that cover the globe.
Weiner states that “it has taken over the job of making data flow throughout the government, from the FBI’s long dysfunctional computer networks to the
Department of Health and Human Services system for tracking child support.”
Lockheed’s government contracts also include additional tens of billions to repair the Social Security Administration’s information systems, to facilitate computer communication in the Department of Homeland Security, and to coordinate Pentagon plans to, in the word’s of Weiner, “fuse military, intelligence and weapons programs through a new military Internet called the Global Information Grid to give American soldiers throughout the world an
instant picture of the battlefield around them.”
Ever concerned about the loss of life caused by war, Lockheed is pioneering a class of robot soldiers to replace the humans who now serve as capitalism’s
As we have often observed in this newspaper, military spending serves a dual function in capitalist America.
It is designed to police the world in the interest of conquest, domination, and capitalist profit and it serves to at least partially counterbalance the inherent tendencies in the capitalist system to economically self-destruct in the face of
ever-increasing worldwide competition.
Military production is second only to banking in regard to the concentration of corporate resources, wealth, and power. It is a field so intimately tied to
the government that few dare to challenge its influence. It is among the central homes of ruling-class power and influence. Despite formalities and “legalities,” it is as inseparable from the workings of government and politics as the ruling
class is from the private ownership and control of the nation’s money wealth and property.
The owners of these corporations act as a parasite on society itself, increasingly draining working people’s taxes and social services in order to pursue yet another war to keep a sinking system alive. The abolition of this single industry alone would free up the resources to end poverty and human misery throughout the world.
But the war profiteers will not be removed until the system they depend on is itself replaced. That’s the job of all who struggle for social justice.