World Policy Institute – Arms Trade Resource Center

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Tangled Web 2005: A Profile of the Missile Defense and Space Weapons Lobbies by William D. Hartung with Frida Berrigan, Michelle Ciarrocca, and Jonathan Wingo


This is the latest in a series of reports by the World Policy Institute’s Arms Trade Resource Center on the economic and political factors influencing United States policies on nuclear weapons, missile defense, and space weapons. The Center would like to thank Theresa Hitchens of the Center for Defense Information for her invaluable feedback on early drafts. We would also like to extend thanks to all of the other experts whose good work we relied on in developing this report.

We are also extremely grateful to the foundations and individuals whose support enabled us to do this report: the Arsenault Family Fund, the Deer Creek Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Janelia Foundation, the Ploughshares Fund, the Proteus Fund, the Samuel Rubin Foundation, the Stewart Mott Fund, the Strachan Donnelley Trust, David Brown, Alan Kligerman and Mary Van Evera.


I. Introduction: Missile Defense Technical and Cost Issues

Should Missile Defense be a Priority?

II. A Capsule History of the Missile Defense Lobby

The Genesis of the Current Missile Defense Lobby

The Battle in Congress

III. Enter George W. Bush

IV. Contractors Cash In

Contracts Increase and the Rich Get Richer

Missile Defense Contractors: Who Makes What?

V. Contractor Political Contributions:

What are They Getting for Their Money?

Alabama and Missile Defense

Other Congress/Corporate Connections

VI. Seeds of a Space Weapons Lobby

Examples of Space Weapons Programs

Possible Pillars of a Space Weapons Lobby

Impediments to Development of Space Weapons And a Space Weapons Lobby


TABLE I: Missile Defense Spending, 2000- 2006

TABLE II: Top Ten Missile Defense Contractors, 2001-2004 8

TABLE III: Top 15 Recipients of Funding from Missile Defense Contractors, U.S. House of Representatives, 2001-2006

TABLE IV: Top 15 Recipients of Funding from 12 Missile Defense Contractors, U.S. Senate, 2001-2006

APPENDIX A: Top 15 House Recipients of Funding from Missile Defense Contractors, 2001-2006 With Details by Company

APPENDIX B: Top 15 Senate Recipients of Funding from Missile Defense Contractors, 2001-2006 With Details by Company

APPENDIX C: Additional Resources




Missile Defense Technical and Cost Issues

Since U.S. President George W. Bush officially announced his decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic missile treaty in December 2002, U.S. spending on the development and deployment of a missile defense system has accelerated dramatically. Missile defense spending has increased from roughly $4 billion per year at the end of the Clinton administration to between $8 billion and $9 billion now.

Seven prototype Ground-based Missile Defense (GMD) interceptors have been installed at Fort Greely, Alaska, with two more in place at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Efforts are being made to speed up deployment of Sea-based Midcourse Defense (SBM) interceptors, using Aegis radar systems and ships outfitted with Standard Missiles 3 (SM-3). There is also funding for research on Space-Based Interceptors (SBI) designed to eliminate nuclear warheads before they reach the United States.

This substantial flow of funds has continued despite the serious technical and cost issues that have plagued the missile defense effort. For example, in the last two tests of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system — designed to intercept nuclear warheads in space, before they re-enter the earth’s atmosphere — the interceptor rockets failed to make it out of the launch tube. In a prior test, in December 2002, the kill vehicle (the component designed to intercept the incoming missile/warhead) failed to separate from the interceptor rocket. The GMD system has performed so poorly that supporters like Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) are concerned that recent Pentagon statements about limiting upgrades to the system’s interceptors could be the first step towards significant funding cuts. If carried out, the funds cut from GMD would most likely be shifted to other missile defense config- urations.

In the Airborne Laser program (ABL), which plans to mount lasers on modified Boeing 747 aircraft, only one of the six technologies needed to make the system work is “technically mature.” A full test of the system has been delayed from 2005 to as late as 2008.

Cost issues raised by the current missile defense program are equally troubling. Costs for the Aegis ballistic missile defense system, a ship-based system that uses Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) as an interceptor, grew by over 11% from November 2003 to July 2004, a period of just nine months. The Space-Based Infrared High (SBIRS-High) satellite, designed to provide early warning for missile defense, has experienced cost growth of 150% from late 1996 through mid-2004.

From its inception during the Reagan administration to the present, the current generation of missile defense development has cost over $130 billion. Missile defense costs will continue to grow. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that just launching enough Spaced-Based Interceptors (SBI) to ensure full global coverage could cost $40 billion to $60 billion.

All of this expenditure might be justified if the ballistic missile defense system could be shown to work and if the ballistic missile threat were the most urgent danger facing the United States. But neither of these propositions is true.

As Dr. Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has demonstrated, systems like the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense and the Aegis system can be easily overcome by the use of simple decoys such as mylar balloons that can be released at the same time as the actual nuclear warhead. In the weightless environment of space, it is virtually impossible to tell a warhead from a decoy, rendering any mid-course defense system an almost futile exercise. A recent study by the Congressional Research Service concluded that “there is no unambiguous, empirical evidence to support the contention that kinetic kill for ICBM defense will work.”

Another missile defense idea is to try to hit the attacking missile in its “boost phase,” before it leaves the atmosphere and releases its decoys and warheads. A report by the American Physical Society (APS) has reviewed the daunting challenges faced by any boost-phase system. First, it notes that because of the speed of solid-fueled rockets, “boost-phase defense of the entire United States against solid-propellant ICBMs. . . is unlikely to be practical when all factors are considered, no matter where or how interceptors are based.” The APS report goes on to explain that U.S. intelligence analyses have “concluded that countries of concern might acquire or develop solid-propellant ICBMs during the next 10-15 years,” which means that “boost-phase defenses not able to defend against solid-propellant ICBMs risk being obsolete when deployed.”

The APS report further notes the problem of “munitions shortfall.” This means that even if the body of the attacking missile is destroyed, the munitions and decoys will continue along a ballistic trajectory, potentially landing either in neighboring countries or even in the United States. The list of additional problems is long. For example, “the intercept locations for ICBM trajectories from North Korea would be over China… Consequently, firing them towards North Korea… could be mistaken for an attack on China, Russia, or other countries.”

The boost phase of an ICBM is short, in the range of three to four minutes. As the APS report notes, “In most situations, interceptors would have to be fired within a few seconds after confirmation of a large rocket to intercept it in time to protect the United States.” Also, it would be extremely difficult to discriminate between an ICBM launch and a satellite launch, meaning that the boost-phase system would have to be prepared to shoot down any rocket in the vicinity, regardless of its purpose.

Should Missile Defense Be a Priority?

A ballistic missile is probably the least likely way that a U.S. adversary would choose to attack the United States. A ballistic missile has a “return address,” which would subject the attacking nation to a devastating counter-attack. Dictators like North Korea’s Kim Jong Il may engage in aggressive rhetoric, but they are not suicidal. They want to survive and hold power as long as possible. A ballistic missile attack on the United States would seriously jeopardize that power, not to mention the life of the tyrant in question.

Testifying at a March 2002 hearing on emerging missile threats, CIA analyst Robert Walpole suggested that an attack on the United States using a ballistic missile would be less likely than an attack that did not rely on a missile:

“Some non-state entities are seeking chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear materials and would be willing to use them without missiles. In fact, we assess that U.S. territory is more likely to be attacked from non-missile delivery means — most likely from terrorists — than by missiles, primarily because non-missile delivery means are less costly, easier to acquire and more reliable and accurate. They can also be used without attribution.” [Emphasis added]

Greg Thielmann, a proliferation expert who worked at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, has noted that even for states that have acquired ballistic missiles, the concept of nuclear deterrence still operates:

“For emerging missile powers to anticipate effectively intimidating the United States with threats of a direct missile attack on the American homeland is a dubious proposition. There is no empirical evidence that even the most erratic foreign leader would believe himself immune from… [a U.S.] counter-attack… There are no plausible scenarios for disguising the source of an ICBM attack on the United States… Devastating retaliation and the end of the attacker’s regime would have to be assumed.”

Finally, as Robert Walpole’s testimony implies, missile defense is irrelevant to the most pressing security threat facing the United States, global terrorism. No terrorist group would have the sophistication, resources, or territorial base to build and launch a ballistic missile. If any such group wanted to attack the United States with a crude nuclear device it would most likely try to bring it into a U.S. port on a ship, or even build it in the United States and then use it.

The money lavished on missile defense would be much better spent on port security, protection of trains and airlines and other common practices for improving homeland defense — including additional funding for efforts to secure or destroy “loose” nuclear weapons and bomb-making materials around the globe.

Given all of these strikes against it, why does missile defense funding continue to thrive? The pillars of support for the program include political ideology, pork barrel politics, corporate lobbying and the continuing belief of some in the Pentagon that a working missile defense system can be developed incrementally, even if it is not “perfect.”

There is also a psychological component to the pursuit of missile defense, based on the assertion of key supporters that even short of deploying a viable system, successful tests may dissuade other nations from bothering to build ballistic missiles. This is a dubious proposition to begin with, but it is particularly questionable given that the last three tests of the ground-based midcourse system, the centerpiece of the U.S. missile defense program, have failed.

As Lisbeth Gronlund of the Union of Concerned Scientists notes, why would potential adversaries be more likely to be deterred by an unproven missile defense system than they would by the fully tested, nuclear-armed ballistic missiles already in the U.S. arsenal?

In the pages that follow, we will not undertake a comprehensive assessment of the whys and wherefores of missile defense. Instead, our primary focus will be to explore the interactions among missile defense contractors, key members of Congress and corporate-funded think tanks in promoting missile defense systems and expenditures. We will then turn to the question of whether a similar lobby might develop in favor of space weapons.

A Capsule History of the Missile Defense Lobby

The modern era of missile defense development began with President Ronald Reagan’s March 23, 1983 pledge to undertake an ambitious research program designed to render nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete.” The original enthusiasm generated by Reagan’s missile defense plan had diminished considerably by the end of his second term, as technical problems, cost overruns and progress on nuclear arms reductions with the Soviet Union made the program seem more daunting and less relevant.

Research on missile defenses continued during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, but his administration lacked the passion for the program that existed under Reagan. Bush scaled back Reagan’s ambitious plan to defend against thousands of Soviet nuclear warheads to Global Protection Against Limited Strikes (GPALS), which was designed to defend against an accidental launch or an attack by a so-called rogue state possessing a handful of nuclear-armed ballistic missiles.

Despite its smaller scale, the new system ran into technical and cost problems. It also ran into trouble on arms control grounds, because it envisioned placing a thousand or more small interceptors — known as “Brilliant Pebbles” — into space. This scheme was a clear violation of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. On the other side of the argument, avid supporters of missile defenses criticized the Bush plan as being a hollow shell of the more extensive system they were advocating. The GPALS system was never produced and missile defense planners went back to the drawing board.

The election of William Jefferson Clinton spelled even worse news for missile defense supporters. In May 1993, Les Aspin, the first secretary of defense in the Clinton administration, announced “the end of the Star Wars era… These changes represent a shift away from a crash program for deployment of space-based weapons designed to meet a threat that has receded to the vanishing point.”

While Aspin’s declaration did not mean the end of missile defense research, but rather a focus on ground-based systems rather than space-based interceptors, this was still a significant policy shift.

The Genesis of the Current Missile Defense Lobby

Given the Clinton administration’s lack of enthusiasm for developing an extensive, Star Wars-style system, conservative missile defense supporters on Capitol Hill came together to press for a more robust program. The turning point was the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in the 1994 mid-term elections.

The “Contract with America,” the platform that Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and his colleagues ran on, included a plank that called for “renewing America’s commitment to an effective national missile defense system by requiring the Defense Department to deploy anti-ballistic missile systems capable of defending the United States against ballistic missile attack.” Ballistic missile defense was the only specific weapons program included in the contract. Rep. Gingrich and his colleague Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX) were persuaded to add the missile defense plank by Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy (CSP).

Gaffney’s CSP served as the nerve center of the missile defense lobby, bringing contractors, sympathetic members of Congress, retired military officials and representatives of conservative think tanks together to strategize about how best to promote missile defense to the public and on Capitol Hill.

At the time that it was most intensely involved in pressing for missile defense deployment, Gaffney’s organization was receiving roughly one-quarter of its funding from corporations, including contractors such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and TRW that stood to gain if a missile defense system were ever built. CSP received over $2.1 million in corporate donations in its first 11 years of existence, from July 1988 through Sep-tember 1998.

At the time, Gaffney’s advisory board included corporate officials like Charles Kupperman and Bruce Jackson of Lockheed Martin, along with James Roche of Northrop Grumman; prominent conservatives like Bill Bennett and Jeanne Kirkpatrick of Empower America, and Heritage Foundation President Edward Feulner; long-time missile defense supporters like the late Dr. Edward Teller, former Reagan science advisor George Keyworth and former Reagan State Department official Elliott Abrams; and sitting members of Congress such as Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Rep. Christopher Cox (R-CA), Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). Another friend of and donor to the Center for Security Policy was Donald Rumsfeld, who went on to become secretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration.

The efforts of the Republican House majority to promote missile defense were held in check during their first two years in power, primarily due to “sticker shock.” Republican deficit hawks were turned off by the system’s price tag, which the Congressional Budget Office put at up to $60 billion just for a ground-based system.

At this point the Gaffney network, in the person of advisory committee member Rep. Curt Weldon, tried to redirect the missile debate by passing an amendment calling for the creation of a panel to assess the ballistic missile threats to the United States. Despite a pledge of bipartisanship, Republican appointees to the panel outnumbered Democratic appointees by a 2 to 1 margin. And the chairman of the Commission, Donald Rumsfeld, was a well-known advocate for missile defenses.

When the Rumsfeld Commission report was released in July 1998, it quickly emerged as a critical weapon in the drive to shift the debate onto terrain more favorable to missile defense supporters. The report’s key finding was that “rogue states” like Iraq or North Korea could acquire long-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting the United States within “five years of the decision to acquire such a capability,” not the ten to fifteen years estimated by U.S. intelligence agencies. House Speaker Newt Gingrich quickly trumpeted the report’s findings, proclaiming that they represented “the most important warning about our national security since the end of the Cold War.”

Upon closer inspection, the Rumsfeld panel looked less like a balanced assessment and more like a 1990s variation on the infamous “Team B” panel of the 1970s — a team of outside experts brought in by congressional hawks to second-guess the CIA’s official estimate of Soviet military strength. In the case of the Rumsfeld panel, it looked at the same data used in the 1995 National Intelligence Estimate and reaffirmed by a prior independent review convened by former Reagan CIA Director Robert Gates.

The problem was not that the Rumsfeld panel manufactured data or openly lied; it was that they spent more time spinning out extreme worst-case scenarios than they did focusing on current realities. For example, instead of looking at the real world economic, political and technical impediments facing a state like Iraq or North Korea, the commission focused on unlikely scenarios such as “the possibility that complete, long-range missile systems could be transferred from one nation to another… Such missiles could be equipped with weapons of mass destruction.”

The panel assumed that a potential adversary could build a “crude” ballistic missile without testing it and would then be willing to risk massive retaliation by using that untested missile in an actual confrontation. The commission also relied on biased experts for some of its key findings. For example, it was two engineers from Lockheed Martin, a major missile defense contractor, who briefed the commission members on the ability of a country with relatively primitive “Scud” missile technology of the kind possessed by Iraq and North Korea to build an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

The Lockheed Martin briefing was the origin of the panel’s finding that a nation with Scud-based infrastructure could develop an intercontinental ballistic missile within about five years of deciding to do so. This was a highly controversial proposition not shared by many experts in the field.

Despite these flaws in the Rumsfeld report, it received considerable press coverage — most of it uncritical. Shortly after the report was issued, the missile defense lobby received a political gift in August of 1998 when North Korea launched a Taepodong missile that landed in the Pacific Ocean after flying over Japan. North Korean leaders asserted that it was a failed space launch; in any case it was a failed test that said little about Pyongyang’s ability to reach the United States with a ballistic missile. Nonetheless, in the alarmist environment in Washington, contributed to by the Rumsfeld Commission report, the North Korean test had an important political impact.

The Battle in Congress

Efforts in the fall and winter of 1998 to pass a pro-missile defense bill fell short due to successful Democratic efforts to prevent a vote, which required the support of 60 of the chamber’s 100 senators. On several occasions, 41 Democrats voted against bringing the bill to the floor, successfully blocking it. By the turn of 1999, however, a number of key Democrats had defected and a bill sponsored by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) was brought to a vote in mid- March. The original bill simply said, “It is the policy of the United States to deploy as quickly as technologically possible an effective national missile defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against a limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized or deliberate).” After adding two Democratic amend-ments saying that deployment must be affordable and could not undermine arms control efforts, Cochran’s legislation passed by a 97-2 margin.

The House soon thereafter passed an even simpler bill which said “It is the policy of the United States to deploy a national missile defense.” Before the House voted on the bill, which passed by a vote of 317 to 205 with no amendments, 250 House members had received a 90 minute briefing from Donald Rumsfeld. Washington Post reporter Bradley Graham noted that this kind of briefing prior to a vote on a major bill was a rare occurrence.

In the run-up to these key votes, Donald Rumsfeld resumed his advocacy for missile defense, within weeks of chairing an allegedly objective report on worldwide ballistic missile capabilities.

The conservative group Empower America, on which Rumsfeld served as a board member, ran a series of misleading pro-missile defense ads prior to the November 1998 elections, including one against Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). The ads warned of the danger of a terrorist group getting hold of a ballistic missile — an extremely unlikely scenario — and then went on to say “We are only one vote shy of ensuring the safety of you and your family. But the people standing in the way are Nevada’s own senators.”

Rumsfeld also received Frank Gaffney’s organization’s “Keeper of the Flame Award” for 1998 at a gala fundraising dinner attended by retired military officers, leaders of pro-missile defense think tanks and representatives of key missile defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin.

Missile defense supporters faced one final obstacle in their drive for rapid deployment of a missile defense system — President Bill Clinton. When Clinton signed the 1999 bill on deploying defenses, he included four caveats:

  • The system must be affordable;
  • The system must be technologically proven;
  • The missile threat must be established; and
  • Deployment must not undermine the pursuit of arms control.

These were significant impediments. Last but not least, Clinton gave a speech at his alma mater, Georgetown University, in September of 2000, in which he stated that the system was not ready for deployment because of technical problems and that he could not in good conscience proceed with deployment until those problems were resolved.

Enter George W. Bush

After the Clinton administration’s blunting of the rush toward missile defense, it appeared to supporters that only a new, pro-missile defense President could break the logjam. George W. Bush, the Republican nominee for the 2000 presidential elections, was that person. He spoke repeatedly on the campaign trail of the need to deploy missile defenses as soon as possible and promised initial deployment by the end of his first term (if elected, of course).

Missile defense was his most important distin-guishing issue vis-à-vis his opponent Al Gore. Gore and his running mate Joe Lieberman repeatedly stated that their plan to add $100 billion to the Pentagon budget over 10 years was double the $45 billion proposed by the Bush campaign. At one point Bush responded to this charge by saying “If this were a spending contest, I’d come in second.” Nevertheless, the weapons industry embraced Bush, giving him nearly five times as much money as it contributed to his Democratic rival Al Gore. Of the more than $14 million donated by weapons contractors in the 2000 election cycle, Republicans were favored by a nearly 2 to 1 margin, $9 million to $5 million.

Bush reinforced his missile defense stance with his first round of appointments, starting with the selection of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Rumsfeld’s selection was treated with glee by pro-missile defense organizations, but his appointment was just the beginning. Douglas Feith, the chairman of the board of the Center for Security Policy, was selected as undersecretary of defense. James Roche, a Center advisor, was appointed Secretary of the Air Force. In all, 22 advisors or officers of CSP were appointed to positions in the Bush administration.

In a November 2001 appearance at the Center for Security Policy’s annual fundraising dinner, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld praised the organization in a well-received quip, saying, “Frank Gaffney, if there was any doubt about the power of your ideas; one has only to look at the number of Center associates who people this administration… I was thinking about calling a staff meeting, but I think I’ll wait until tomorrow morning.”

Appointments from the defense industry were even more impressive. In his first few months in office, President Bush appointed 32 former executives, board members, or major shareholders from arms companies to key policymaking positions in his administration. A number of them had direct or indirect ties to major missile defense contractors.

The Cheney family benefited from $500,000 to $1 million in deferred fees from Lynne Cheney’s seven years of service on the board of Lockheed Martin. Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley had worked at Shea and Gardner, Lockheed Martin’s principal law firm. Douglas Feith’s law firm, Feith and Zell, represented a wide range of defense industry clients, including missile defense contractor Loral Space and Communications.

Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition Edward “Pete” Aldridge came to the Bush administration after serving as the CEO of the Aerospace Corporation, a nonprofit, government financed defense research firm that has worked on specific missile defense projects, including space-based sensors, Ground-based Missile Defense (GMD) and the Airborne Laser Program. The Aerospace Corp. has also played a role in coordinating engineering and integration support provided to the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency. When Aldridge left the administration, he immediately took a position on the board of Lockheed Martin.

In addition to Aldridge, one of the most influential appointments was Peter B. Teets, the former Chief Operating Officer of Lockheed Martin, to the position of assistant secretary of defense in charge of military space acquisitions.

The Bush difference was felt immediately, as missile defense funding increased by over 80% between fiscal year 2000 and fiscal year 2002, from $4.2 billion to $7.7 billion. The increases continued through 2005, when the total missile defense budget reached $9.9 billion before dropping to $8.8 billion in 2006 (see Table I, above). This lower figure was still more than twice as much as was spent on missile defense in the last full year of the Clinton administration. Beyond these spending increases, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also issued a memorandum that put more missile defense activities in the classified budget and freed the program of the normal reporting to Congress on timelines, costs and performance.

One of the Missile Defense Agency’s most critical attempts to limit independent analysis of the program was its decision to classify information on the types of targets and decoys used in tests of the system, thereby making it impossible to assess whether a given test was realistic or not. Congress has attempted to reassert its oversight authority on missile defense by requiring various annual reports and more realistic tests, but the program remains one of the least transparent in the Pentagon budget.

The final major change was the Bush admini-stration’s December 2002 decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, which eliminated constraints on missile defense testing in space and undermined an important pillar of the international arms control regime.

Contractors Cash In

The acceleration of missile defense spending has been especially lucrative for top missile defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. It has also helped smaller firms such as Collazo Enterprises, a Huntsville, Alabama-based company that owns Colsa Incorporated, a small-to-medium sized missile defense contractor that has reaped over $120 million in missile defense contracts since 2001; and Sparta, Incorporated, which ranked seventh in missile defense prime contracts received between 2001 and 2004. An estimate of missile defense contracts received by the top 10 missile defense contractors during the first term of the Bush administration (from 2001 to 2004) is displayed in Table II.

Contracts Increase and the Rich Get Richer

As might be expected from the sharp increase in spending on the program during the Bush administration, total prime contract awards for missile defense work have increased sharply as well. Contracts have more than doubled from $2.7 billion in fiscal year 2000, the last year of the Clinton administration, to over $6 billion in fiscal year 2004.

The top four contractors — Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman — were the biggest beneficiaries of the increase in missile defense contract awards. Boeing and Lockheed Martin saw their contracts more than double during Bush’s first term; Raytheon’s contracts almost tripled; and Northrop Grumman’s contracts increased fivefold, in large part due to its acquisition of major missile defense and space contractor TRW. While large numbers of companies have some involvement in missile defense work, in dollar terms the sector is heavily dominated by a few firms. More than 250 firms received $1 million or more in missile defense prime contracts in the 2001 to 2004 period. More than 75 companies received $10 million or more. But over 77% of total prime contract awards for missile defense went to Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.

The data on the distribution of missile defense dollars would be less concentrated if information on subcontracts (a contract from one firm to another to build a component of a system) were available. But controlling the vast bulk of prime contracts gives the largest companies immense power, including the power to choose which of the smaller firms receive subcontracts for missile defense work. This in turn can translate into political leverage in the states where subcontractors are located.

For example, Boeing’s web site contains an entry for “Team ABL” which includes not only major project partners like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, but also smaller subcontractors like STI Operonics, EDO, OCLI, Brashear LP, Corning, EEI and Hereaus.

In all, Boeing cites involvement of 32 companies at 38 facilities in 19 states, including Washington, Oregon, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida and Georgia.

In addition to Northrop Grumman’s takeover of TRW (mentioned above), a number of other companies have bought firms that will better position them to get a share of the missile defense pie. In July 2004, General Dynamics acquired Spectrum Astro, a firm involved in both missile defense and space weapons-related work (see space weapons section, below, for more on Spectrum Astro).

L-3 Communications has purchased Coleman Research, a firm specializing in making targets that are used to simulate incoming warheads in missile defense tests. L-3 has also absorbed the Titan Corporation, which is involved in producing targeting systems for theater missile defense.

Missile Defense Contractors: Who Makes What?

Of course, major contractors don’t do missile defense work in general, they work on specific projects. Sometimes the big four contractors compete for funding, but just as often they are partners in the development of key systems. Examples of major missile defense programs of the big four contractors are as follows:


  • Airborne Laser (ABL), part of “Team ABL;”
  • The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (prime contractor/systems integrator, including dev-elopment/oversight of Ground-Based Inter-ceptor (GBI), Space-Based Infrared satellites (SBIRS) and X-Band Radar);
  • The PAC-3 missile defense system (sub-contractor to Lockheed Martin);
  • The Aegis sea-based system (subcontract from Lockheed Martin); and
  • The Terminal High Altitude Area Defense project (THAAD), producing thrusters under subcontract to Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin

  • Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System (prime contractor, part of Sea-based Midcourse Defense System);
  • The Airborne Laser, part of “Team ABL”;
  • The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) payload launcher (subcontract from Boeing);
  • The Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS), U.S. partner in international consortium;
  • The PAC-3 Missile (prime contractor);
  • The Theater High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) prime contractor; and
  • The prime contractor for the miniature kill vehicle (MKV), re-named the Multiple Kill Vehicle in 2004.

Northrop Grumman

By virtue of its December 2002 purchase of TRW, Northrop Grumman has become a major player in missile defense.

Projects include:

  • Providing the Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser for “Team ABL;”
  • The Defense Support Program (detects ballistic missile launches);
  • The Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system (software/battle management, subcontract from Boeing);
  • The Joint National Integration Center (modeling and simulation for missile defense);
  • The Kinetic Energy Interceptor (prime contractor, boost phase system);
  • The Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser (prime contractor, seeking capability to intercept short-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles); and
  • The Space Tracking and Surveillance System (STSS).


  • Aegis Ballistic Missile System (provides SM-3 interceptor missile);
  • The Airborne Laser (subcontractor to “Team ABL”);
  • The Extended Air Defense Test Bed (applicable to MEADS and THAAD programs);
  • The Ground-Based Missile Defense exo-atmospheric kill vehicle, subcontractor to Boeing;
  • The Long-Range Theater Missile Defense Early Warning Radar;
  • The THAAD radar system (subcontractor to Lockheed Martin); and
  • The X-band radar (subcontract from Boeing).

Contractor Political Contributions:

What Are They Getting for Their Money?

As a way of protecting their missile defense revenues and ensuring access to key lawmakers on a variety of issues, the top missile defense contractors have been extremely generous to their patrons in Congress, donating more than $4.1 million dollars to just 30 key members from 2001 through 2006. [See Tables III and IV].

The vast majority of the top 30 recipients of funds from missile defense contractors were members of the Armed Services Committee or Defense Appropriations Subcommittee in their respective house of Congress.

While most political donations are given for multiple purposes, they help build relationships with key members that can then be utilized if an important issue comes up regarding missile defense or one of their other defense programs (for more detail, see Appendix A and B).

Connecting Congress and Corporations

There are a variety of connections between major recipients of contributions from missile defense contractors and the actions these members of Congress take on Capitol Hill.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R-VA) has gone to the floor of the Senate to block amendments calling for more realistic testing of missile defense prototypes. It is reasonable to assume that at least some of the $104,449 he has received from missile defense contractors since 2001 is sparked by Warner’s support of their issue.

Three of Warner’s top ten contributors for 2001 through 2006 were missile defense contractors Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. TRW (now owned by Northrop Grumman) threw a luncheon honoring Sen. Warner and Rep. Tom Davis during the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia, at a time when the company was under investigation for possibly falsifying data in its missile defense testing program.

Alabama and Missile Defense

Senators and Representatives from Alabama, including Representatives Bud Cramer, Terry Everett and Robert Aderholt and Senators Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, are engaging in good old-fashioned pork barrel politics. These Alabama members often brag about the impact on local industry of missile defense funding or policies that they helped bring about.

Perhaps the most blatant example of this was a press release issued by Sen. Jeff Sessions after President Bush announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty. Sessions saw the withdrawal from the treaty as a business opportunity for his state:

“Today’s announcement is a ringing endorsement of Huntsville and the entire North Alabama defense community, which oversee much of the national missile defense technology program. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee,

I look forward next year to working with President Bush on a fiscal year 2004 defense budget that bolsters our strategic missile defense program.”

Rep. Cramer’s views are best represented by a May 26, 2005 press release in which he praises increased funding for missile defense and then brags that “the North Alabama community continues to play a large role in the development of the missile defense system. I have worked hard to educate my colleagues in Congress on the benefits of a strong missile defense system and will continue to do so.”

Rep. Terry Everett has also jumped onto the pork barrel bandwagon, widely publicizing his role in getting a $47 million increase for the Theater High Altitude Area Defense program (THAAD) in the FY 2005 House of Representatives defense bill. Lockheed Martin does work on the THAAD system at a facility in Pike County, Alabama, in Everett’s district.

Not only is Alabama Senator Richard Shelby a major supporter of local companies engaged in missile defense work, but he has started his own leadership PAC (Political Action Committee), the Defend America PAC, that can be used to support other missile defense advocates in Congress.

All five Alabama missile defense supporters have benefited from generous political contributions from small to mid-sized home state contractors like Collazo Enterprises, the parent company of Alabama-based missile defense contractor Colsa Inc.; and Sparta Inc., the number eight missile defense contractor in the U.S. from 2001 to 2004. Colsa came in 11th over the same time period and therefore is not represented in Table II (page 8).

Collazo was either the first or second highest donor to each of the five Alabama members. Collazo was the top contributor to Sen. Jeff Sessions in the period from 2001 to 2006, with $40,000 in donations. Other firms with major Alabama-based facilities that contributed to Sessions include Dynetics ($11,250) and Sparta ($6,000). In all, these three companies accounted for nearly 40% of Sen. Sessions’ donations from missile defense contractors from 2001 to 2006, helping him to finish second among his Senate colleagues in contributions from the missile defense sector (see Table IV).

The number one Senate recipient of donations from missile defense contractors during 2001 to 2006 was Sessions’ colleague Sen. Richard Shelby. Shelby received $26,000 from Collazo in support of his leadership PAC, the Defend America PAC. Sparta was his top contributor, giving $32,200 in the 2001 to 2006 period. The congressman also received $13,000 from the Huntsville area contractor Miltec.

As a result, Alabama-based firms represented over one-third of Sen. Shelby’s receipts from missile defense contractors between 2001 and 2006. For detailed breakdowns of how much individual contractors gave to the members discussed in this section, see appendices A and B, beginning on page 26, which cover Senate and House contributions to the top 15 recipients of missile defense-related contributions, respectively.

Rep. Terry Everett received $24,000 from Collazo, followed by Rep. Cramer at $23,250. Collazo was Cramer’s top contributor from 2001 to 2006, followed by Sparta at $22,650 and including Miltec at $9,250. These Huntsville area contractors donated over $55,000 to Cramer, just under one-third of his total contributions from missile defense contractors from 2001 to 2006. In addition to the $24,000 from its top donor Collazo, Rep. Terry Everett received contributions from Huntsville-based Davidson Technologies ($8,000) and Sparta ($7,000). These three companies alone accounted for 38% of Everett’s missile defense-related contributions in 2001 through 2006.

Rep. Robert Aderholt depends even more on companies with a local connection, including his top donor Collazo ($25,937); his second-ranking donor Dynetics ($18,000); and his third-ranking donor Miltec ($15,300). In all, Aderholt received more than $67,000 from Huntsville area companies in 2001 through 2006, representing more than half of his receipts from missile defense companies.

In all, Collazo donated $139,387 to these five Alabama members from 2001 to 2006, with Sparta following behind with donations of $67,850.

Other Congress/Corporate Connections

While the main political supporters of missile defense in Alabama receive donations from a variety of missile defense firms, Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ) gets more than half of his support from a single contractor, Lockheed Martin. The firm’s Moorestown, New Jersey plant is in Saxton’s district, where it works on Aegis ships and anti-missile technology for use in the Sea-based Missile Defense program.

Saxton was instrumental in getting two Lockheed Martin Aegis destroyers added to the FY 2006 defense authorization bill. He describes the ships as “the shields of the U.S. fleet and the backbone of the sea-based element of the nation’s ballistic missile defense system.” Lockheed Martin gave Saxton over $72,995 in political contributions from 2001 to 2006, and was the congressman’s top donor in the 2002 and 2004 re-election campaigns.

Other contributions have no obvious “pork barrel” element but are clearly tied to the member’s support of missile defense programs. Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), for example, has been a long-time supporter of missile defense and was the founder of the Congressional Missile Defense Caucus. Weldon was also the author of the 1998 amendment that created the Rumsfeld commission on ballistic missile threats to the United States, a key milestone for the missile defense lobby. There is no major missile defense work occurring in his district. Yet the geographic area that came in third in the value of contributions to Weldon’s most recent re-election campaign is Huntsville, Alabama, the home of numerous missile defense contractors located near the Army Missile Command.

Twelve major missile defense contractors made substantial contributions to Weldon’s campaigns from 2001 to 2006, from SAIC, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon at over $19,000 each, to Sparta and Teledyne at $2,000 each.

Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), a congressman well known for his ability to bring contracts into his district, is an example of a political hybrid on the missile defense issue. He has not always supported the missile defense industry’s short-term interests, but he continues to get significant donations from major contractors and to solicit missile defense work for firms in his district.

During the last days of the Clinton administration, Murtha supported the President’s decision to postpone missile defense deployment, raising issues ranging from the need to deal with the question of how to handle decoys to concerns about a near-term deployment sparking an arms race with Russia and China.

But since that time, Murtha has received over $318,000 from missile defense contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin (see Table III, page 11). And he has been instrumental in bringing in missile defense work for firms in his district, including MountainTop Technologies (to develop on-line training courses for the Missile Defense Agency) and Kuchera Defense Systems (for a subcontract from Northrop Grumman to work on the Kinetic Energy Interceptor). Murtha’s most recent coup involved getting Northrop Grumman to open a 14,000 foot facility in his district.

According to company Vice President Daniel Montgomery, Northrop Grumman made the move because “the [company’s] Mission Systems sector has strong established relationships with area companies that support our missile defense and tactical systems programs.” The placement of the facility in Johnstown, Pennsylvania should also solidify Northrop Grumman’s relationship with Rep. Murtha, a veteran Appropriations Committee member committed to helping hometown companies.

Some contributions seem clearly unrelated to missile defense issues, like the $22,000 fundraiser that Boeing executives threw in Seattle for Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) in December 2001, shortly before he sponsored an amendment requiring the Air Force to lease Boeing 767s and retrofit them as military cargo planes. But Stevens has been a friend of the missile defense program nonetheless, in significant part because important elements of the system, including interceptors for the Ground-Based Midcourse system and the X-Band radar, are being deployed in his home state of Alaska.

As noted below (p. 16), Stevens is determined to keep the GMD system at the center of missile defense development efforts, a move that would be the most beneficial approach for his state.

While most votes on missile defense funding that reach the floor of the House or Senate are virtually party line votes, among the few Democrats who have consistently voted against more rigorous testing and against cutbacks in missile defense spending are Senators Bill Nelson of Florida and Ben Nelson of Nebraska (the two Senators are not related). Bill Nelson is among the top 15 recipients of contributions from missile defense contractors in the Senate, while Ben Nelson ranks in the top 20 with receipts of $49,500 from missile defense contractors from 2001 to 2006. Both men voted against an FY 2005 amendment by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) calling on the secretary of defense to certify that the Ground-Based Midcourse element of missile defense has succeeded in operationally realistic tests before it can be deployed. They also voted no on an amendment by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) to transfer more than $515 million in funds from the Ground-Based Midcourse element of missile defense to programs designed to stem the spread of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

Both Senators have important missile defense operations in their states. Florida has the third largest “space economy” in the U.S., behind Texas and California. And Nebraska’s Strategic Air Command (now known as Stratcom) has expanded its mission to include not only the logistics of nuclear weapons deployment but also the functions formerly performed by the U.S. Space Command. As Sen. Ben Nelson noted about a year after the reorganization occurred, the “new, revamped Stratcom” would be taking on “four new missions, including the management of a layered missile defense system.”

It should be noted that there are also a number of Senators among the top 15 recipients list who have shown no evidence of offering any special support to the missile defense cause, including Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). In fact, Sen. Levin has been a major critic of the size of the missile defense budget, as well as an advocate of more realistic testing.

In these cases, there are generally reasons other than missile defense for military contractors to support the member in question. For example, not only does Sen. Levin have a major tank production facility in his state (run by General Dynamics), but he is the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee. The nation’s number one defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, has its headquarters in Sen. Mikulski’s home state of Maryland. Boeing’s major production facilities are in Sen. Murray’s home state of Washington, and Sen. Feinstein’s home state of California is by far the biggest military contracting state in the country.

This means that Senators from these states may go to bat for home state companies on issues other than missile defense, as when Sen. Murray supported an ill-conceived plan to lease Boeing 767s and transform then into aerial refueling vehicles for the Air Force. There is also a general interest among contractors to support home state incumbents and key committee members as a way to sustain access to the members and their staffs, even if those members don’t support the companies on certain key issues.

While the size of political contributions from missile defense contractors to key members of Congress is impressive, in an era of mostly rising budgets there has been less need for the companies to engage in direct lobbying on the issue. This may change as the demands of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the need to re-tool U.S. forces to address the threat of terrorism and the tens of billions already flowing to rebuild the U.S. Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina begin to compete for funds with the missile defense program, the largest single weapons program in the Pentagon budget.

The Pentagon reduced funding for the program by $1 billion in FY 2005, from $9.9 billion to about $8.8 billion, the first cut during the administration of George W. Bush. If deeper cuts occur or certain systems are put on the block for cancellation, the missile defense lobby will be ready to fight back with all the political money and lobbying muscle at its disposal.

For example, the office of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) was instrumental in an October 2005 Senate Appropriations Committee report that raised concerns that the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency was abandoning plans for any additional major improvements in the Ground-Based Interceptors (GBI) that are the backbone of the Ground-Based Midcourse System that is primarily to be based in his home state.

Although 40 GMD silos are still in the works for deployment in Alaska, the fear of Stevens and other GMD supporters is that the Pentagon is planning to de-emphasize the system in favor of smaller mobile systems that could be based on ships, aircraft, or transported to sites closer to potential missile threats.

Analyst Stephen Young has gone one step further, suggesting that the overall disarray in the missile defense program could even lead to a situation in which the Pentagon “pulls the plug” on missile defense deployment, as happened in 1975 and 1976 when the $25 billion antimissile system deployed there was shut down after just four months, under the leadership of then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Whether or not that outcome occurs, instability in the goals and budget allocations for missile defense may arouse key contractors to bring their political clout to bear in saving particular systems that provide them with substantial revenues.

Seeds of a Space Weapons Lobby

Although there have been significant internal discussions in Pentagon and military circles about the rationale for deploying weapons in space, the amounts of money involved pale in comparison with the funding lavished on missile defense. Spending on overall military space programs runs at about $22 billion per year, but funds specifically devoted to space weapons R&D are estimated to be between $300 million to $500 million annually.

Furthermore, if a decision is made to deploy space weapons, many of the projects will not come to fruition for 10 to 20 years, if not longer. Given these realities of funding and schedule, evidence of a well-oiled lobby for space weapons is hard to come by. However, some of the activities on the space weapons front mirror the early days of the missile defense lobby that emerged in the mid-1990s. Many of the same companies and political players are involved.

For example, the seminal document that promoted the possibility of placing weapons in space was a January 2001 commission on national security uses of space, chaired for most of its existence by Donald Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld stepped down as chair in December 2000, when he was nominated to be the Bush administration’s secretary of defense.

The Rumsfeld space commission argued that to avoid a “Space Pearl Harbor,” the United States must develop the capability for “power projection in, from and through space.” The commission further commented that the U.S. should head off efforts to limit the deployment of weapons in space. The report noted that since there is no current prohibition on “placing or using weapons in space, applying force from space to earth, or conducting military operations in and through space,” the United States should be “cautious of agreements… that may have unintended consequences of restricting future activities in space.”

The Rumsfeld report had considerable corporate input: seven of the 13 commissioners involved in developing the report and its key recommendations had current or former ties to the aerospace industry, including representatives of firms that could benefit directly from space weapons programs. Commissioners with corporate ties included:

  • Duane P. Andrews, Executive Vice-President of the Science Applications International Corp-oration (SAIC);
  • General Howell M. Estes, USAF (ret.), Vice-Chairman, Board of Trustees, the Aerospace Corporation;
  • General Ronald R. Fogleman, USAF (ret.), CEO Durango Aerospace and director, the MITRE Corporation;
  • Lieutenant Gen. Jay Garner, U.S. Army, (ret.), president of SY Technology;
  • Admiral David E. Jeremiah, U.S. Navy (ret.), President of Technology Strategies and Alliances Corporation (a defense consulting firm) and director of Litton Industries and Alliant Techsystems;
  • General Thomas S. Moorman, Jr., USAF (ret.), partner, Booz Allen Hamilton;
  • General Glenn K. Otis, United States Army, (ret.) and former Senior Vice President, Coleman Research.

Two additional members, William R. Graham and Malcolm Wallop, were then serving on the advisory board of the Center for Security Policy, the pro-missile defense think tank discussed earlier.

A 2002 Air Force report on “counterspace operations” (a fancy term for disabling or destroying other nations’ satellites) also showed important corporate input. Peter B. Teets, then the undersecretary of the Air Force for military space acquisitions, a position created at the urging of the Rumsfeld Commission, was quoted as follows in the Air Force report:

“Controlling the high ground of space… will require us to think about denying the high ground to our adversaries. We are paving the path to 21st century warfare now. Our adversaries will soon follow.”

Prior to taking up his position at the Pentagon, Teets had served as Chief Operating Officer at Lockheed Martin, a major missile and space contractor. In the same report, then Secretary of the Air Force James Roche, a former executive at Northrop Grumman, asserted that “the proverbial first shot of space warfare has already been fired with the advent of jammers designed to defeat the capabilities of our airmen in space.”

Shortly after leaving his post in the Bush administration in early 2005, Teets gave an even more frank assessment of the possibility of space warfare in an interview with the New York Times: “We haven’t reached the point of strafing and bombing from space… Nonetheless, we are exploring those possibilities.”

A 2005 Presidential Commission on the Future of Space Exploration could also have consequences for the future of space warfare. The chairman of the commission was Edward “Pete” Aldridge, a former chief of acquisition at the Pentagon who immediately took a position on the board of Lockheed Martin upon leaving government service. Aldridge also had previous experience as the head of the Aerospace Corporation, a major missile defense research and development contractor (see above).

The Aldridge Commission’s report does not deal directly with the placement of weapons in space, but a number of its recommendations have potential implications for the future possibility of space warfare. The report calls for pro-corporate policies such as the privatization of all space launch services, a greater U.S. commitment to the “commercial-ization of space,” and the development of a “space industry… that will seek profits in space.” Among the possibilities mentioned is the potential development of a “lunar metals plant” based on mining iron, aluminum, magnesium and titanium on the moon. The report notes elements of the Outer Space Treaty and the Moon Treaty which prohibit the commercialization of space by a single nation and suggests that the issue of “property rights in space” needs to be addressed “at an early stage” if the Commission’s recommendations for profiting from space are to be carried out.

The development of U.S. commercial interests in space without the consensus of the international community could be used as a further argument for deploying space weapons, as a way of protecting those interests. A more enlightened policy would involve treating space as a “global commons” in which possible commercial ventures in space are negotiated in treaty form or in a voluntary set of “rules of the road” for space activities.

Examples of Space Weapons Programs

Putting weapons in space is more than just an abstract notion referenced in policy documents. A number of programs with anti-satellite or military strike capabilities are already on the drawing board, receiving initial R&D funding or, in some cases, engaging in preliminary testing. A list of major programs follows:

  • The XSS-11, launched in 2004, is an experimental spacecraft designed to demonstrate inspection capabilities, but according to Air Force documents and officials it has anti-satellite potential as well.
  • The Near Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE) is a demonstration project related to the testing of a space-based interceptor. After protests in Congress, initial NFIRE tests will not include a kill vehicle, which would ultimately be needed to carry out an anti-satellite mission.
  • The Micro-Satellite Propulsion Experiment (MPX) aims to develop small satellites that can track and monitor — or perhaps destroy — other nations’ satellites.
  • The Common Aero Vehicle (CAV) — According to an essay written by two members of a contractor team involved in developing the system, the CAV is “a maneuvering reentry vehicle capable of carrying a payload (primarily munitions) from a suborbital to orbital atmospheric re-entry and either impacting a target directly or dispensing munitions at a chosen dispense location and condition.”
  • Hypervelocity Rod Bundles, also nicknamed “Rods from God,” would be a space-based system designed to strike hard and deeply buried targets on earth. So far this is only a paper concept, with no funding obligated for its development.
  • Kinetic Energy Anti-Satellite Weapon (KE-ASAT) is designed to launch projectiles from earth capable of destroying satellites in orbit. Prototypes are already “on the shelf,” although new work is ongoing to upgrade the technology.
  • Laser programs: Although the Space-Based Laser program, a project designed primarily for missile defense that would have anti-satellite capabilities, has essentially been abandoned by the Missile Defense Agency, laser research continues. The Air Force has expressed an interest in developing a Ground-Based Laser capable of destroying targets in orbit. It is also funding the Evolutionary Air and Space Global Engagement (EAGLE), a series of relay mirrors that would extend the reach and power of the Ground-Based Laser and the Air-borne Laser to illuminate or destroy objects in space. The Air Force budget for Fiscal Year 2005 included $262 in classified laser research, some of which may be aimed at developing anti-satellite capabilities.
  • The Space-Based Interceptor is being designed primarily for use in the missile defense program, but it can be adapted for use as an anti-satellite weapon.
  • The Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI) is another missile defense-related program that has potential applications as an anti-satellite weapon.

Most space weapons programs are in their early stages, with potential deployment at least 10 years away. There is considerable secrecy surrounding space weapons research. As a result, there is less information on contractor funding than is the case for the missile defense program, which is already at the stage of deploying initial elements of the system. But some information on key contractors is available.

Lockheed Martin is the lead contractor working with the Air Force Laboratory on the XSS-11 microsatellite. Companies and research institutes working with Lockheed Martin on the XSS-11 project include Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Octant Technologies, Inc., Broad Reach Engineering and the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). The Schafer Corporation is one of nine contractors involved in developing the Common Aero Vehicle (CAV). Miltec and Davidson technologies have contracts to help develop the Kinetic Energy ASAT (KE-ASAT). In January 2003, Spectrum Astro (now a part of General Dynamics) received a $34.4 million add-on to its contract for work on the Near Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE).

More is known about contractors for programs that are further along in their development. Northrop Grumman is the prime contractor on the Kinetic Energy Interceptor; subcontractors on the KEI program include Raytheon, Orbital Sciences, Aerojet, Alliant Techsystems, Ball Aerospace, Booz Allen Hamilton, Davidson Technologies Inc., Information Extraction and Transport, Inc. (IET), Oshkosh Truck Corporation, Photon Research Associates, Inc. (PRA), Rockwell Collins, Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC), Schafer Corp., Systems and Electronics Inc. (SEI) and 3D Research Corp. Work on the KEI is being performed in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Virginia and Wisconsin.

If full-scale production of the system is initiated, the geographic placement of the KEI contracts will produce a potentially powerful base of support in Congress in the event that there is a push to cut or eliminate the program. Representatives from these states might also press for “add-ons” to the program beyond what the Pentagon requests in a given year.

Possible Pillars of a Space Weapons Lobby

Not only are many of the same companies involved in space weapons research that have long been working on missile defense, but there is potential overlap in some of the programs. The Ground-Based Midcourse system will be capable of shooting down a satellite, a task that is considerably easier than shooting down an intercontinental ballistic missile because satellites travel in regular, predictable orbits.

However, it would not be a particularly efficient way of going about it, as there would be a short window of time in which the Ground-Based Interceptor could identify the satellite and it might get only one shot at hitting it. But the capability exists nonetheless.

There has been talk of using the Airborne Laser (ABL) as an anti-satellite weapon (ASAT), using the Evolutionary Air and Space Global Engagement System (EAGLE) — a series of relay mirrors — to focus the beam. The Space-Based Interceptor (SBI) is a kinetic energy kill vehicle that is primarily being designed for missile defense but can be adapted for use as an ASAT. If any of these major programs continue to suffer from cost growth and technical failures in their missile defense mission, the companies involved might try to “sell” them for use in anti-satellite missions. For example, when the ABL program was threatened with budget cuts last year, individuals familiar with the program reported that some Boeing officials argued that its potential “dual use” nature — missile defense and anti-satellite missions — was a reason to fund the program at current or higher levels.

Should they choose to, companies like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, SAIC and General Dynamics that are involved in space weapons-related projects have plenty of clout to bring to bear. These five companies alone made $13.1 million in campaign contributions from 2001 through the 2006 election cycles. This represents 40% of the $33.2 million in contributions made by the entire defense industry during this time period. Their percentage of lobbying expenditures is even higher. The same five companies spent $30.2 million on lobbying in the year 2000 (the most recent year for which full data is available), more than half of the $60 million lobbying expenditures made by the entire defense industry in that year.

The role of corporate officials in shaping U.S. space policy, noted above, is the most concrete evidence to date of the beginnings of a space weapons lobby. The involvement of major missile defense-related companies in space weapons work speaks to the potential for a space weapons lobby to emerge if the amounts of money involved and the development of key systems reach critical mass. Beyond these factors, there is at least one clear example of corporate and congressional involvement in promoting space weapons projects.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has pushed vigorously for the KE-ASAT program, which is not particularly popular with the Air Force. He has also made sure that contracts to work on the system go to the Huntsville, Alabama, facilities of Miltec and Davidson Technologies Inc. In return, the companies gave $4,000 to Sessions’ leadership PAC (Political Action Committee), which he can use to donate to the campaigns of other members of Congress, thereby garnering influence with them.

This is a relatively small amount compared to the $40,000 Sessions received from the missile-defense firm Collazo enterprises, but the contributions from Davidson and Miltec could grow as the program evolves.

If space weapons contractors decide to ramp up lobbying efforts, the logical place to look for allies in Congress is the Space Power Caucus. Pentagon and military industry officials played an important role in creating the caucus. In December 2000, Air Force Major General Brian Arnold, director of space and nuclear deterrence in the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, called for the establishment of a “space power caucus” on Capitol Hill to help the Pentagon “advocate for space issues.”

When the caucus was finally founded in 2003, it was done at the urging of then Undersecretary of the Air Force Peter Teets, a strong advocate of putting weapons in space who also happened to serve as an executive at Lockheed Martin prior to joining the Bush administration. As described by founding member Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO), the purpose of the caucus is to “educate other members of Congress on the capabilities of our military space programs, what those programs contribute to the war-fighting ability of our armed forces and how those capabilities contribute to the everyday benefit of our country through other means.”

In an op-ed touting the creation of the caucus, Allard spent far more time stressing the economic benefits of military space programs to the state of Colorado than he did explaining the strategic merits of these programs. He asserted that, “Colorado has the fourth-largest space economy behind California, Texas and Florida,” involving 100 companies, 38,000 jobs and 8 percent of Colorado’s economic activity. Shortly after helping to form the Space Power Caucus, Allard spoke at a roundtable in Denver on how to attract more military and space contractors to Colorado, which included federal and state officials along with representatives of major missile defense and space weapons contractors Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, along with smaller firms like Ball Aerospace and Booz Allen Hamilton.

To ensure that industry interests help shape the organization’s priorities, the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) has an official representative to the Space Power Caucus. Other leading members of the Space Power Caucus include Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL), each of whom has one or more major military space-related facilities in his or her state. The caucus’s activities include sponsoring symposia and Capitol Hill briefings featuring key government officials involved in making military space policy, as well as representatives of companies with an interest in military space issues. For example, in the spring of 2005 the caucus co-sponsored a breakfast briefing featuring Lt. Gen. Daniel Leaf, the Vice Commander of the Air Force Space Command. Attendees included caucus co-chairs Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Rep. Bud Cramer (D-AL) and Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO), along with Senators Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Ken Salazar (D-CO) and Representatives Heather Wilson (R-NM) and Terry Everett (R-AL).

The caucus also sponsors trips to key facilities like the Air Force and Army Space Commands in Colorado and the Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska. Allard describes the purpose of these trips as a way to “allow caucus members to observe these space units and discuss issues with military and industry leaders.”

The conservative think tanks that were so instrumental in promoting missile defense funding and deployment in the 1990s have spent relatively little time and effort on the space weapons issue so far. There have been a few exceptions, such as a Heritage Foundation lecture by Baker Spring entitled “Slipping the Surly Bonds of the Real World: The Unworkable Effort to Prevent the Weaponization of Space.” The Heritage analysis is mostly reactive in character, referencing recent press coverage and NGO reports on the space weapons issue and objecting to any arguments suggesting that weaponizing space is dangerous, unaffordable or impractical.

The George C. Marshall Institute, which has been sponsoring forums and disseminating analyses in favor of missile defense deployment for several years, has recently taken up the issue of “space security and national defense.” Typical activities include a commentary in Space News on “Saving Space: Securing Our Space Assets,” which argues against any treaty that would prohibit the weaponization of space and for the development of space systems to protect against possible attacks on current U.S. space capabilities.

Euphemisms such as “protecting” space assets, assuring “freedom of access” to space and establishing “space control” are all designed to reinforce arguments for the need to promote weapons in space. Part of the battle over the future of space weapons will be fought in the realm of language, as pro- and anti-space weapons advocates try to get their perspectives and rhetoric on the issue to frame public discussions. Whether conservative think tanks like Heritage and the Center for Security Policy begin to pour greater resources into promoting space weapons will probably depend on the pace at which the Pentagon and the Air Force pursue these projects, whether substantial obstacles develop that would prevent the deployment of weapons in space and what other issues become priorities for these groups in the coming years.

Impediments to Development of Space Weapons and a Space Weapons Lobby

There are a number of factors working against the development of a full-scale space weapons lobby. There are major impediments to moving space weapons projects past the research stage, which may forestall the emergence of a robust advocacy network in favor of placing weapons in space.

The first obstacle is cost. It is immensely expensive to launch materials into space. This would weigh heavily in any congressional decision to go ahead with space-based ASAT programs. As was mentioned earlier, the Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated that the launch costs alone to put enough Space-Based Interceptors in space to provide full global coverage for the missile defense mission would be $40 billion to $60 billion. Fewer interceptors would be needed for an anti-satellite role, but the launch costs would still be substantial.

Bruce M. Deblois, Dr. Richard Garwin and two colleagues have estimated that putting just 40 “Rods from God” into space would cost $8 billion. With these kinds of costs involved even before considering the price tag for developing the space weapons systems themselves, many in Congress, the Pentagon and the military services may cool to the idea of weapons in space, especially relative to other military priorities.

As some indication of the seriousness of the cost and performance issues involved in military space programs, even Space Power Caucus co-chair Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) felt compelled to lecture the Air Force and its contractors at a September 23, 2005 forum, stating that “We in Congress are tired of the frequent cost increases and schedule delays. We have heard all the excuses and they are not good enough. In many respects, the Air Force and its contractors have lost all credibility with Congress when it comes to space acquisition programs… Until its credibility is restored in Congress, you can expect the Air Force to have a struggle in its efforts to get its programs off the ground and into orbit.”

The second factor working against the development of a robust space weapons lobby is congressional skepticism. Unlike missile defense, which is virtually an article of faith among congressional Republicans, there is no party unity behind putting weapons in space, at least not yet. The fact that congressional criticism led to the removal of a kill vehicle from a test of the Near-Field Infrared Experiment (NFIRE) underscores the sensitivity regarding deploying weapons in space.

A third factor is economic — hitting satellites in space is likely to create considerable space debris, which poses a danger to civilian and military satellites. While there are few explicit attempts in industry to link the space debris problem to space weapons, that could change quickly if current programs get beyond the early research stage.

Finally, there is the question of whether deploying space weapons will improve or degrade U.S. national security. The U.S. is currently the world’s dominant space power, using satellites for reconnaissance, targeting, communications and intelligence gathering. Breaking the taboo against placing weapons in space will encourage other space-faring nations to develop their own space weapons, thereby placing U.S. military space assets at risk. There are voices both within the military and within industry who have argued against the deployment of space weapons on strategic, economic and technical grounds.

In short, the development of a substantial space weapons lobby — or of the development and deployment of space weapons themselves — is an uncertain prospect. Some of the elements are in place, but there are countervailing pressures pushing in the other direction. The best way to develop sound policies in this area that are not skewed by special interest lobbying is to increase transparency regarding current programs. This will allow for a public debate about the wisdom of putting weapons in space well in advance of decisions to develop and deploy such systems.


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