ARMS TRADE RESOURCE CENTER
A Special Issue Brief
Summary of Findings
Finding 1 – Playing politics with defense: Given the serious technical, cost, and arms control problems plaguing the Clinton administration’s proposed National Missile Defense (NMD) system, the most convincing explanation for the undue haste with which this issue is being decided is that both the Clinton administration and its conservative adversaries in Congress and the Bush campaign are playing politics with the missile defense issue.
Finding 2 – The NMD Two-Step – Republicans Lead, Clinton Follows: In its ongoing effort to “triangulate” by coopting Republican issues, President Clinton has slowly but surely met conservative missile defense boosters more than half way on the NMD issue, to the point where his administration has little room to maneuver in putting the program on hold in pursuit of a new round of nuclear arms reductions with Russia. In the mean time, Republicans in Congress and on the Bush campaign have stepped up their calls for an elaborate, multi-tiered NMD system akin to Ronald Reagan’s ill-fated Star Wars scheme of the 1980s.
Finding 3 – NMD Is Unaffordable: With cost projections for NMD ranging from a Congressional Budget Office estimate of $60 billion for the Clinton administration’s “limited” two site system to as much as $240 billion for a “robust,” multi-tiered approach, missile defense is fast outpacing the willingness of the public or large parts of the national security establishment to pay for it, particularly compared to what these vast sums could do to address other pressing national needs.
Finding 4 – NMD Is Lucrative: The nation’s Big 3 weapons contractors, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon, are looking to missile defense as a medium-to-long term source of revenues and profits to help them recover from recent management and technical problems that have slashed their stock prices in half and reduced their profit margins. In FY1998-99, the four largest missile defense contractors (the Big 3 plus TRW) have shared over $2.2 billion in Pentagon research and development funding for research projects. These four firms completely dominate the missile defense program at this point, accounting for 60% of total missile defense contracts issued by the Pentagon in FY1998-99.
Finding 5 – The Political Pace of the NMD Program Is Being Pushed by An Alliance of Conservative True Believers and Right-Wing Foundations Centered Around Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy: Every major milestone in the NMD program, from its inclusion in Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey’s “Contract With America” in 1994 to the Rumsfeld Commission’s extreme “worst case” assessment of the “rogue state” missile threat in 1998 to the passage of pro-NMD legislation in both houses of Congress in the spring of 1999, has been propelled forward by a highly disciplined and effective coalition of conservative organizations. This pro-NMD network includes the Heritage Foundation and Empower America, and neo-Reaganite Republicans like Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), all of whom are represented on the Board of Advisors of the Center for Security Policy, which serves as the de facto nerve center of the missile defense lobby.
Finding 6 – The Four Largest Missile Defense Contractors Are Making a Major Political Investment in the Promotion of an NMD System: Since Republicans took control of the House in 1995, weapons industry PAC contributions have favored Republican congressional candidates by a margin of 2 to 1. In this election cycle alone, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon and TRW have given over $2 million to the 25 most hard-core NMD boosters in the Senate who signed a recent letter from Jesse Helms to President Clinton threatening to kill any U.S.-Russian arms agreement that puts ANY limits on the scope of future NMD deployments. These companies also spent $34 million on lobbying during 1997-98, and they have helped finance a series of pro-NMD breakfasts on Capitol Hill in conjunction with the National Defense University Foundation and the National Security Industrial Association (the weapons industry’s largest trade association).
From Star Wars to National Missile Defense
Inside the Missile Defense Lobby
Missile Defense Revisited: Article of Faith or Political Cover?
More Buck for the Bang: Cashing In on NMD
Missile Defense Fraud: The Other Enduring Legacy
Where do we go from here?
Table I: Soft Money Donations, PAC Contributions and Lobbying Expenditures from the Top Missile Defense Contractors
Appendix A Tables:
Table A: Defense Companies Receiving the Largest Dollar Amounts of Pentagon Missile Defense Contracts 1998-99
Table B: Top Senate Recipients of Defense Industry PAC Campaign Contributions 1995-99
Table C: Top House Recipients of Defense Industry PAC Campaign Contributions 1995-99
Appendix B: Missile Defense Resource List
On March 23, 1983, when Ronald Reagan surprised the nation and the world by announcing an ambitious research program designed to render nuclear weapons “impotent and obsolete,” he noted that this “formidable technical task…may not be accomplished before the end of this century.” The end of the 20th century has come and gone, but Reagan’s dream of an impenetrable shield against nuclear weapons is no closer to reality than it was when he gave his “Star Wars” speech. Over the past eighteen years, U.S. taxpayers have spent $70 billion on various mutations of Reagan’s ballistic missile defense vision, with precious little to show for it.
The original enthusiasm generated by Reagan’s Star Wars plan had diminished substantially by the end of his second term, as technical problems, cost overruns, and progress on U.S.-Soviet nuclear arms reductions made the program seem both unworkable and irrelevant. Missile defense continued as a research program during the Bush years, soaking up $3 to $4 billion per year in taxpayer funds, but the zeal that had characterized the Reagan administration’s approach to the program had largely dissipated. By the time President Clinton took office, then Secretary of Defense Les Aspin proclaimed “the end of the Star Wars era.” Research funding for missile defense remained steady, but the emphasis was placed on “theater” defenses designed to deal with short-to-medium range ballistic missiles. But just when it seemed like Star Wars had become a relic of the Cold War era, the demand for a National Missile Defense system reemerged as a major issue on Capitol Hill as conservative Republicans set out to “win one for the Gipper.”
When Newt Gingrich and his conservative colleagues took control of the House of Representatives in 1994 they ran on a legislative platform called the Contract with America, which had been co-authored by Gingrich and his colleague Rep. Dick Armey (R-TX). In its only specific defense/foreign policy plank, the Contract 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.”
Republican missile defense efforts were held in check during the first two years of the “Gingrich revolution,” in large part due to concerns among Republican “deficit hawks” about the program’s staggering price tag, which the Congressional Budget Office had pegged at $31 to $60 billion. Despite the political difficulties faced by National Missile Defense (NMD) in Congress, in mid-1996 the Clinton administration agreed to a compromise “3+3” plan, which involved three more years of intensive missile defense research followed by a deployment decision. If a decision to deploy the NMD system was justified by the threat, the technology, the cost, and its net impact U.S. security, a crash program would be undertaken to put the initial elements of the system in place within three years (this timeline was later adjusted to five years by Secretary of Defense William Cohen). Now, in keeping with Clinton’s readjusted 3+3 plan, the administration is planning to make an NMD deployment decision this fall, smack in the middle of the 2000 presidential campaign. Political considerations, which have been a central driver of the missile defense program since its inception, will loom large in President Clinton’s decision.
NMD has been scaled down from Reagan’s original vision of a multi-tiered “umbrella defense” designed to thwart thousands of incoming Soviet warheads to the more modest goal of intercepting what Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has described as a few “tens of warheads” launched intentionally by a “rogue state” like North Korea, or accidentally by an existing nuclear power like Russia or China. But despite its far less demanding mission, so far the proposed NMD system has been plagued by the same kinds of cost and technical problems that characterized its more elaborate predecessor, Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). The first NMD test, which took place in October of 1999, hit the target by sheer luck after homing in on a decoy warhead. The January 2000 intercept test failed outright as a result of a leaky tube. This mixed record makes the outcome of the next test – scheduled for late June or early July – a critical factor in President Clinton’s decision on whether or not to move full speed ahead on deployment of a National Missile Defense system.
In total, just 21 intercept tests are to take place before completion of the NMD system scheduled for 2005. Lieutenant General Ronald Kadish, Director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), claims that the NMD testing program is designed to ensure that it will work with a “very high level of confidence.” However, in comparison to other weapon development programs with less demanding missions, the Union of Concerned Scientists points out that, “the Pentagon expects to test the NMD system less than a typical military system.”
As arms control expert Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has rightly pointed out, one of the greatest flaws of the proposed NMD program is that it is like a “balloon mortgage.” All the risks – undermining the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty, sparking a new nuclear arms race, and straining U.S. relations with its NATO allies – come up front. On the other side of the ledger, the purported security benefits of NMD deployment will not be realized for years, if at all. Even BMDO Director Ronald Kadish acknowledged in a recent breakfast briefing that he will not feel entirely comfortable that the system will work as intended until much later in the testing process, some time in the year 2004. That means if President Clinton makes a deployment decision this fall without persuading key players like Russia, China, and other nuclear or near-nuclear powers that it poses no threat to them, he risks sparking three to four years of global nuclear instability before we know whether a limited NMD system will work for the narrow mission of blocking a few “rogue state” missiles.
Furthermore, a recent report by Philip Coyle of the DoD’s Independent Office of Testing & Evaluation and two reports by the special panel of missile defense experts chaired by former Reagan administration Air Force Chief of Staff Larry Welch all raise questions about whether the NMD program can meet its ambitious goal of fielding a modest but workable system by 2005. Both reports cite inadequate and compressed testing schedules that place NMD programs in a “high risk” category and both concur that the NMD intercept tests are not representative of real world threats where attack by a rogue state would be accompanied by easily employed countermeasures and decoys. These concerns have been echoed by a recent report by a panel of scientists convened by the Union of Concerned Scientists and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and by an independent analysis by MIT scientist Theodore Postol which was based on data generated by a controversial 1997 test by TRW. Former TRW employee Nira Schwartz has filed a civil suit against the company alleging that she was forced to cover up test results which demonstrated that in a vast majority of cases, an NMD interceptor would not be able to tell the difference between a warhead and a decoy.
The Clinton/Gore NMD plan envisions at least two phases of deployment at a cost estimated by the Congressional Budget Office at up to $60 billion, if one counts associated satellite systems. For their part, Republican Star Warriors on Capitol Hill won’t be satisfied until the U.S. has built a massive missile defense “triad” consisting of sea-, space-, and ground-based interceptors. The Council for a Livable World has estimated that this more elaborate system would cost at least $120 billion, while the Center on Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has suggested that a truly “robust” system could cost up to $240 billion, four times the estimated costs of the Clinton/Gore plan. The “robust” system advocated by Republican Presidential nominee George W. Bush in his May 24th speech on nuclear weapons and U.S. foreign policy would come in at the high end of this cost range.
But even if the NMD system can be made to “work” on the military/technical level without breaking the budget, a hasty decision to deploy NMD poses grave risks to U.S. security and global stability. Unless Russia agrees to amend the treaty to allow NMD deployment, going forward with Clinton’s “limited” missile defense plan will violate the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, threatening three decades of progress on nuclear arms control in the process. A deployment decision by President Clinton or his successor could also derail the recent offer by Soviet premier Vladimir Putin to reduce U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals to 1,000 strategic warheads each. It would also almost certainly provoke new nuclear weapons production by Russia and China.
As the Clinton administration’s self-imposed deadline to decide the fate of NMD fast approaches, there has been little national debate about what is really at stake. A balanced view of the potential risks and benefits suggests that NMD deployment will most likely create more security problems than it will solve. According to a May 19th article by Bob Drogin and Tyler Marshall of the Los Angeles Times, a forthcoming National Intelligence Estimate suggests that a decision to deploy an NMD system could provoke “an unsettling series of political and military ripple effects from the proposed U.S. deployment that would include a sharp build-up of strategic and medium-range nuclear missiles by China, India, and Pakistan and the further spread of military technology in the Middle East.” Given these risks, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) is right in saying “Unless and until we are confident that deployment of an NMD system will make us more secure, we should not deploy.”
Against this backdrop it is clear that President Clinton’s “rush to judgment” on National Missile Defense has been spurred on, not by a realistic assessment of the threats facing the United States in the decades to come, but, instead, by strong political pressures generated by a committed cadre of “true believers” and special interest groups that stand to benefit from a decision to deploy missile defenses. This grouping of contractors, conservative think tanks, and weapons scientists make up a formidable lobbying force in Washington, but their big payday will only come if NMD moves forward from a lavishly funded research and development effort to a crash program aimed at rapid production and deployment of a missile defense system.
The most effective advocate for the deployment of an open-ended NMD system is former Reagan Pentagon official Frank Gaffney the director of the Center for Security Policy (CSP). The Center is a small but extremely effective boiler room operation that puts out nearly 200 press releases and “national security decision briefs” per year on issues like the North Korean missile threat, Chinese nuclear espionage, and the alleged dangers to U.S. security of supporting various arms control treaties. Ironically, even though Gaffney claims to be carrying on the work of Ronald Reagan many of the arms control treaties that he is trying to dismantle, including the ABM treaty, the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, and the START accords, were implemented by Republican presidents, namely Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush.
To transpose Will Rogers’ famous comment, Gaffney has never encountered an arms control agreement he didn’t dislike. From the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty that would bar testing of new nuclear weapons to the anti-personnel land mine treaty that recently went into force after years of sustained public education carried out by a worldwide movement of citizen activists and government and military officials, Gaffney’s Center has a predictable position: agreements are bad because foreign countries can’t be trusted, so we’re better off seeking a position of unchallengeable military superiority that will allow the United States to act unilaterally and with impunity. And those countries that we must deal with – such as our NATO member allies – basically need to be “educated” and pressured until they toe the U.S. line.
The Center for Security Policy claims to be a “non-partisan organization committed to stimulating and informing the national and international debates about all aspects of security policy.” But upon closer inspection, CSP’s central role in bringing together conservative members of Congress, the arms industry, and major conservative think tanks into a powerful, unified force on behalf of NMD deployment makes Gaffney’s organization the nerve center of the Star Wars lobby.
CSP’s 100-member board of advisors is made up of a virtual “Star Wars Hall of Fame” including weapons scientist Edward Teller, former Reagan science advisor George Keyworth, and Elliott Abrams, former Reagan State Department official. From the world of conservative foundations and think tanks, the CSP board boasts such key figures as Bill Bennett and Jeanne Kirkpatrick of Empower America, Heritage Foundation president Edward Feulner, and Henry Cooper of the High Frontier organization. Representatives of the weapons industry include two top Lockheed Martin executives, Charles Kupperman, the company’s Vice President of Washington Operations, and Bruce Jackson, the firm’s Vice President for Strategic Planning. Rounding out the CSP board are sitting members of Congress such as Rep. Christopher Cox (R-CA), Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) and Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) who provide a strong core of leadership on missile defense issues on Capitol Hill.
Unlike most think tanks that work on national security issues, the Center for Security Policy receives roughly 25% of its annual revenue from corporate sponsors, many of which are weapons manufacturing firms. Top missile defense contractors Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and TRW have all contributed generously to Gaffney’s organization, which has received more than $2 million in corporate donations since its founding in 1988.
This conservative/contractor alliance represented on CSP’s board of advisors was instrumental in encouraging former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to insert the plank on National Missile Defense in the Contract with America, a pivotal political turning point in the resurrection of the missile defense issue on Capitol Hill. Even more importantly, the creation of the allegedly objective, bipartisan Rumsfeld Commission to assess the ballistic missile threat facing the United States, was carried out pursuant to an amendment that was inserted into the FY 1997 defense authorization bill by staunch CSP supporter and board of advisors’ member Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania.
The Rumsfeld Commission – which one veteran missile defense analyst has described as “something Curt Weldon probably dreamed up while he was in the shower one morning” – has emerged as a critical weapon in the conservative drive to reshape the debate over National Missile Defense and create a sense of urgency for deployment of an NMD system. The report painted the ultimate worst case scenario by systematically ignoring all of the real world obstacles Third World countries face in trying to obtain a long-range ballistic capability and playing up any factors (however remote) that might increase their chances of getting usable ballistic missiles in a shorter time frame. As a result, the Rumsfeld panel gave NMD boosters in Congress the quasi-official endorsement they needed to push the program forward.
In an effort to give the panel a bipartisan, objective gloss, Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott appointed six of the nine members, but the remaining members were picked by House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. More importantly, they chose former Ford administration Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who has a longstanding reputation as a “pragmatic” moderate on security issues, to chair the panel. When Rumsfeld’s report was released in July of 1998, its key finding was the assertion that “rogue states” like North Korea or Iraq could acquire ballistic missiles within “five years of a decision to do so,” not the ten to fifteen years suggested by previous U.S. intelligence estimates. Newt Gingrich immediately jumped on the report’s findings, loudly proclaiming that they represented “the greatest warning for U.S. security since the end of the Cold War.”
Upon closer examination the Rumsfeld panel looks less like a balanced analysis of the Third World missile threat and more like a slightly more nuanced replay of the tactics that motivated the famous “Team B” panel of the 1970s – a team of conservative outside experts brought in by Congressional hawks to second guess the CIA’s official estimates of Soviet military strength. In the case of the Rumsfeld panel, commission members looked at essentially the same data used in a 1995 National Intelligence Estimate and a subsequent independent review convened by former Reagan CIA Director Robert Gates and gave it a different spin. The fact that conservatives got two chances to reverse the official estimate of the missile threat prompted a well-known arms control expert to dub it the “Team C” report.
The problem was not that the Rumsfeld panel manufactured data or openly lied, it was that they gave an alarmist slant to the information that the U.S. intelligence community had collected on emerging ballistic missile threats. For example, rather than looking at the realistic economic, political, and technical impediments facing so-called “rogue states” like Iraq and North Korea in developing long-range ballistic missiles, the Commission focused on speculative questions such as, “What if China gave North Korea advanced missile technology (or even a completed missile)?”
Few remarked at the time that the panel’s chair Donald Rumsfeld was far from an objective analyst on this particular subject matter, given his parallel role as a card-carrying member of the missile defense lobby. In recent editions of the Center for Security Policy’s annual report, Rumsfeld is described as a “trusted advisor” and listed as a financial supporter of the organization. He also serves on the board of Empower America, which ran misleading pro-Star Wars radio ads against incumbent Democratic Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) in the 1998 elections, just a few months after Rumsfeld’s allegedly non-partisan analysis of the Third World missile threat was released. Lest anyone overlook Rumsfeld’s close ties to the missile defense lobby, he was awarded CSP’s “Keeper of the Flame” award for 1998 at a gala dinner attended by retired military officers, conservative political and foundation leaders, and representatives of missile defense contractors like Lockheed Martin. In addition to Rumsfeld, past recipients of the “Keeper of the Flame” award have included Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Curt Weldon, Jon Kyl, and Christopher Cox.
Beyond their close working relationship with the chairman of the panel, the fingerprints of the Gaffney network are all over the Rumsfeld Report. Gaffney board members William Graham and William Schneider served as members of the Rumsfeld panel, and CSP has publicly bragged that a number of its former staffers and interns went on to serve as staff members of the Rumsfeld commission.
Even now, in May of 2000, as Rumsfeld has stepped forward as one of the Republican “foreign policy wise men” – along with George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell who will advise George W. Bush on major foreign policy issues like missile defense – the Center for Security Policy, which Rumsfeld works closely with is involved in an advertising and web site project called “Protect Americans Now.” The new coalition is involved in a shameless and inaccurate campaign of scare-mongering regarding the ballistic missile threat to the United States. Is this the kind of advice George W. Bush can expect from Rumsfeld and his colleagues once he takes office?
Missile defense, an issue which split the Republican and Democratic parties during the Reagan era, now appears as if it has achieved broad bipartisan support inside the Beltway. But it also seems clear that this increased support has more to do with short-term politics – i.e., Democrats not wanting to be viewed as “soft on defense” – than it does with any strong belief in the technological promise of NMD. On the Republican side of the aisle, a core group of Reaganite true believers has managed to impose a remarkable level of party unity on the missile defense issue, which has become a virtual litmus test for Republican Congressional and Presidential candidates. As a result, it would require strong, persistent presidential leadership to buck the political tide towards NMD deployment, a quality that has unfortunately been in short supply during the Clinton era. Missile defense expert John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists has aptly summed up the situation: “NMD has more to do with defending Al Gore from George Bush than it does with defending the United States from ballistic missiles.”
Despite the fact that the Rumsfeld report made no policy recommendations whatsoever and therefore did not advocate deploying a National Missile Defense system, the release of the report served as the primary weapon in a renewed conservative assault on arms control. Coupled with the September 1998 North Korean missile test and charges of Chinese nuclear espionage – which were highlighted in hearings chaired by another CSP advisor, Rep. Christopher Cox (R-CA) — the Rumsfeld report helped clear the way for the spring 1999 passage in the House and the Senate of bills calling upon the President to deploy an NMD system “as soon as technologically feasible.” In the Senate, Democrats supported the bill with two amendments. The first reaffirmed that it is U.S. policy to continue to seek nuclear reductions with Russia, and the second required funds for any NMD system to be appropriated on an annual basis. As a result, NMD skeptics have argued that these high profile pro-NMD votes do not really commit the U.S. to deploying a missile defense system at all if the conditions on arms control and affordability are not met. Even so, there is no question that the events of the past year have shifted the political ground in favor of a decision to deploy a missile defense system. In essence, the passage of the two bills changed the focus of the Washington debate from whether to deploy NMD to when to do so.
The conservative crusaders bent on deploying missile defenses and destroying the ABM treaty have been emboldened by last year’s successful Senate campaign to thwart ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty. The leader and chief tactician of that effort was CSP advisory panel member Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, who renewed his vow to pursue “peace through strength rather than peace through paper” at a February 2000 post-mortem on the CTB vote organized by Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy. Staunch supporters of missile defense in Congress want to start deployment immediately, and they have made it clear that they do not intend to settle for the limited National Missile Defense system that the Clinton administration is marketing to the international community and the American public. Contrary to Madeline Albright’s assurances that the U.S. seeks to deploy a modest system that will not “degrade Russia’s deterrent,” conservatives on Capitol Hill have a much grander scheme in mind.
In a letter to President Clinton on April 17, 2000, 25 Republican Senators urged him not to negotiate a revised ABM Treaty that would limit future missile defense options. The letter states that “the [Clinton Administration’s] approach fails to permit the deployment of other promising missile defense technologies – including space-based sensors, sufficient numbers of ground-based radars, and additional interceptor basing modes, like Navy systems and the Airborne Laser – that we believe are necessary to achieve a fully-effective defense against the full range of possible threats. ” The letter goes on to ask Clinton to “reconsider your Administration’s current approach to NMD policy and arms control and consult further with us. Without significant changes to your approach, we do not believe an agreement submitted to the Senate for consideration should be ratified.” Among the signatories were Jesse Helms (NC), Jon Kyl (AZ), Thad Cochran (MS), and Trent Lott (MS). The 25 Senators who signed the letter have been the beneficiaries of generous campaign contributions from defense contractors, receiving more than $2 million in PAC contributions from weapons makers like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon in the current election cycle.
On issue after issue – from expanding NATO, to rolling back restrictions on arms sales to repressive regimes, to deploying National Missile Defense, the arms industry has been spending heavily in recent years on candidates and lobbyists who will promote their agenda in Washington. Indeed, the ‘unwarranted influence’ acquired by the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned about in his 1961 farewell address to the nation is still painfully evident toady. But the primary factor motivating the arms lobby is profit, NOT U.S. national security interests, or even U.S. jobs. The “Big Four” weapons contractors — Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and TRW – have received over $2.2 billion in missile defense research and development (R&D) funding during FY 1998 and the first three quarters of FY 1999. They stand to make billions more if a national missile defense system is actually deployed.
The Big Four NMD contractors also control a huge share of Pentagon procurement and R&D spending, accounting for more than one out of every four dollars doled out by the Defense Department for these purposes in FY 1999, for a total of over $32 billion in Department of Defense contracts. This huge annual infusion of taxpayer funds, combined with their large political footprint – Boeing employs 250,000 people worldwide and Lockheed Martin brags of having facilities in all 50 states — makes the defense industry a potent political force. As impressive as their dominance of overall Pentagon contracting is, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and TRW control an even larger share of the missile defense pie – during FY 1998 and FY 1999, an average of 60% of all Pentagon missile defense R&D contracts went to just these four companies.
During the past decade the major weapons makers have made generous campaign contributions to key members of Congress and invested tens of millions of dollars in their already formidable DC lobbying operations in an effort to ensure a “soft” (and profitable) landing during the inevitable cutbacks that accompanied the end of the Cold War . Since 1995, shortly after the Republicans took control of the House in the wake of threats from Newt Gingrich to ensure that companies that failed to back Republican candidates would face “the coldest two years in Washington” that they had ever experienced, weapons industry Political Action Committees have favored Republicans over Democrats by a 2 to 1 margin in races for the House and Senate. By contrast, when Democrats controlled the House, that arms industry favored them by a more modest margin of 55% to 45%.
The two key issues that have distinguished the pro-defense Clinton/Gore Democrats from the hawkish Gingrich/DeLay/Armey Republicans are the conservative Republican commitment to deploying a robust missile defense system as soon as possible AND their willingness to add billions of dollars per year to the Pentagon’s budget request, for everything from more $1.5 billion per copy helicopter carriers for the Marines built at Litton’s shipyard in Trent Lott’s hometown of Pascagoula, Mississippi to Lockheed Martin C-130 aircraft built in Marietta, Georgia, just outside of Gingrich’s old Georgia district and smack in the middle of the district of the Clinton-hating class of ‘94 Republican and NRA poster boy Rep. Bob Barr.
From 1991 to 1997, defense companies spent even more political donations than those other well-known merchants of death, the tobacco lobby. From 1997 to the present, the Big Four missile defense contractors — Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and TRW — have kept up a brisk pace of political giving, doling out more than $3.7 million in PAC contributions to members of Congress. Soft money contributions by the four major missile defense contractors, which go to the parties, are running at $2.1 million for the same time period. But this lavish political giving pales in comparison with what these firms have spent on lobbying: 1997-98, the most recent years for which figures are available, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and TRW spent $34 million on lobbyists. (see charts below)
While missile defense spending is not the only — or even the most urgent — issue on the weapons makers list of lobbying priorities, NMD deployment still figures heavily in the medium-to-long term revenue projections of these firms. For the three largest defense contractors – Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon – the prospect of a decade or more of growing NMD contracts is one of the few bright spots in a surprisingly troubled financial picture.
In the early and mid-1990s, when these three “lumbering behemoths of the apocalypse” were assembled as a result of a dizzying array of defense industry mergers that were encouraged and partially subsidized by the Clinton administration, their financial prospects looked bright. But once the relatively easy period of growth subsided for each of these new weapons manufacturing conglomerates – growth that derived primarily from the increased revenue streams of the combined firms and cost savings based on laying off workers and cutting back factory floor space – financial and management problems set in.
Lockheed Martin experienced a series of high-profile failures on its Theater High Area Altitude Defense (THAAD) program that almost provoked the Pentagon to replace it as prime contractor of the system. The firm also drew fire for essentially blowing up a $1 billion military intelligence satellite due to a faulty launch, and for cost and quality problems on its C-130J and F-22 aircraft programs. Shortly after its merger with McDonnell Douglas in December 1996, Boeing also went into a financial tailspin driven largely by production and management problems in its commercial aircraft programs. Raytheon was the last of the Big 3 to take the plunge, and it continues to face serious challenges based on quality control – hundreds of its Patriot missiles sold to U.S. allies after the 1991 Persian Gulf War have been recalled as defective – and the firm recently loss a major missile contract with the United Kingdom to a European consortium. These technical, management, and competitive problems have combined to cut the stock prices of all three firms by one-half or more in the past two years, and have prompted them to seek government relief in the form of streamlined export rules, relaxed auditing and accounting standards, and outright subsidies. In this context, the prospect of big new contracts flowing from NMD deployment are too good an offer for these major weapons conglomerates to pass up. All three firms have touted their involvement in NMD and other missile defense programs in their most recent annual reports, shortly after the sections in which each company’s top management apologizes for the firm’s subpar financial performance over the past year.
A listing of major missile defense projects underway at Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and TRW follows (data in this section is pulled from company annual reports, and is not intended to be an exhaustive accounting of each firm’s NMD work).
Soft Money Donations, PAC Contributions and Lobbying Expenditures from the Top Missile Defense Contractors
*1999 Lobbying expenditures not available at this time.
%R – percent given to Republican candidates
%D – percent given to Democrat candidates
All data compiled from the Center for Responsive Politics as of May 1, 2000.
Despite the scaled-down size and goal of the newest incarnation of Reagan’s Star Wars shield, the proposed National Missile Defense system has many similarities to its predecessor. Not only is it an enormous waste of taxpayer money, but it has been plagued with cost overruns, technical glitches, and now, what looks to be outright fraud on the part of one contractor. Recent news reports indicate that TRW, a subcontractor for NMD, faked tests and evaluations of key components that were to be used in the development of the NMD system.
The story, which ran in the March 7th edition of the New York Times, reveals that TRW, one of the Pentagon’s top 10 military contractors, did not accurately disclose test results. The whistle-blower, former TRW senior engineer Dr. Nira Schwartz, served on TRW’s anti-missile team in 1995 and 1996 and contends that in test after test the interceptors being developed failed but TRW insisted that the technology performed adequately. The New York Times reported that upon repeated appeals to her boss and colleagues to alert industrial partners and the military to her findings they told her “not to worry” – days later she was fired.
The discrepancies in the test results revolve around the interceptor being developed for the NMD system. While presently Raytheon is the contractor designing the interceptor, TRW still has a supporting role in the project. Equally important, Boeing, which was the designer of the TRW interceptor and a partner with TRW in carrying out the project, has now been elevated to the status of Lead Systems Integrator for National Missile Defense, which means that it will take responsibility for running the NMD test program AND supervising major subcontractors. Hopefully Boeing will do a better job in this phase of its NMD work than it did while it was working with TRW on its now discredited interceptor program.
In using computer programs to certify to the government that TRW’s interceptors would pick out enemy warheads – rather than decoys – 95% of the time, Schwartz found that the interceptors could do so only 5 to 15% of the time. The New York Times points out that Dr. Schwartz “concluded that all the current discrimination technologies were too feeble to work and that at some level the Pentagon and its contractors were in collusion.” To further back up her allegations another former TRW employee stepped forward. Retired senior engineer Roy Danchick agreed with Schwartz, admitting that TRW manipulated the test data so it appeared more successful than it actually was.
Schwartz abruptly stated what missile defense really boils down to: “It’s not a defense of the United States…It’s a conspiracy to allow them to milk the government. They are creating for themselves a job for life.”
Some time after Schwartz’s charges were made public, weapons scientist Theodore Postol of MIT conducted an independent review of the data generated by TRW’s tests of its system for discriminating decoys from warheads. Postol found that not only were the test results inflated, but that the real meaning of the data was that the decoys and the warheads were basically indistinguishable, and that therefore discriminating one from the other using any existing technology would be impossible. When Postol sent his findings in a letter to White House official John Podesta, the Pentagon responded by classifying Postol’s letter on the grounds that it contained secret information. In turn, Postol has accused the Defense Department of improperly using the classification system to cover up waste, fraud, and abuse in the missile defense program.
Nira Schwartz’s description of the rationale for test-rigging by TRW is eerily similar to an earlier case of deception in the Reagan Star Wars program that was uncovered by Tim Weiner of the New York Times in a 1993 article. Weiner’s piece revealed results of an allegedly successful June 1984 intercept test of Lockheed’s Homing Overlay Experiment (HOE) had in fact been manipulated. Nine years late the truth came out:
“We rigged the test,” the scientist said. “We put a beacon with a certain frequency on the target vehicle. On the interceptor, we had a receiver.” In effect, the scientist said, the target was talking to the missile, saying, “Here I am, come get me.”
“The hit looked beautiful, so Congress didn’t ask questions.”
Weiner goes on to note that when the scientist was asked why they rigged the test, he cited economic motivations, not national security concerns: “We would lose hundreds of millions of dollars if we didn’t perform it successfully. It would be a catastrophe.”
Given the extremely critical findings of the recently released Coyle Report from the DoD’s Office of Testing & Evaluation and the November 1999 Welch report chaired by former Reagan administration Secretary of the Air Force Larry Welch, the great technological strides claimed by ardent supporters of the NMD system like Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) and Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) have to be taken with a grain of salt.
The Coyle report states the successful intercept test in October “was an important test in ballistic missile defense and demonstrated new technology,” but “it had significant limitations to operational realism.” The report also concludes that the Pentagon’s Deployment Readiness Review — which is supposed to serve as the basis of a fall 2000 decision by President Clinton on whether to move towards deploying an NMD system — will be limited because it will be “based on a few flight tests with immature elements.”
A lot is riding on the next intercept test scheduled, how do we know it won’t be rigged or to put it more politely, conducted in a “highly scripted” fashion designed to maximize the chances of success?
The complex web of contractors, conservative think tanks, and pro-NMD members of Congress that make up the missile defense lobby have managed to put missile defense at the top of the nation’s political agenda. In fact, the connections between the various factions have become so minuscule that it becomes difficult to answer “Who controls whom?”
The same technical failures, cost overruns, and negative impacts on arms control that brought Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative to a halt in the early 1980s are present today in Clinton’s proposed National Missile Defense system. The President’s decision on NMD will have tremendous consequences for the future of arms control. If the U.S. and Russia are not able to come to an agreement on an amendment to the ABM Treaty that will permit the deployment of a limited NMD system, there is a real danger that the Clinton administration or its successor could proceed with deployment in violation of the ABM Treaty. George W. Bush’s recent pledge to unilaterally deploy a multi-tiered missile defense system whether or not it undermines existing arms control arrangements would be even more costly and destabilizing than the Clinton/Gore plan.
Furthermore, U.S. pronouncements about deploying NMD have sparked bitter denunciations by officials in Beijing and Moscow, as well as condemnation from delegates representing France, Great Britain, South Africa, and others. In total, “the whole world is asking the United States not to build NMD, but no one in Washington is listening,” says Daniel Plesch, Director of the British American Security Information Council. In fact, Congress seems impervious to the mounting criticism within and outside of the U.S. As Stephen Schwartz of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists points out, the U.S. is willing to “forsake deep reductions in the Russian and American arsenals in favor of deploying a limited missile defense against a threat that doesn’t yet exist.”
As for the North Korea threat – the supposed impetus behind NMD – it is the U.S. that is backtracking on negotiations under the nuclear framework agreement, an accord which could result in a cap on North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Congress and the Clinton administration have been withholding economic assistance to North Korea that has been mandated under the U.S.-North Korean agreement. In the context of consistent, good faith negotiating by the U.S., the North Korean missile threat could be eliminated for an investment that would be a tiny fraction of the price tag for deploying an NMD system.
As a high-ranking U.S. intelligence official acknowledged in an interview with Bob Drogin and Tyler Marshall that ran in the Los Angeles Times on May 19th, neither North Korea nor Iran has made significant advances in their missile programs over the past year or so, and in point of fact North Korea’s program has been frozen since October 1998. The official further noted that the whole concept of the “rogue state” creates a predisposition towards deploying an NMD system against such a nation, whether or not it is justified by the facts of the situation.
The lack of a credible threat, workable technology, or an affordable plan for National Missile Defense sort of makes you wonder what the big rush to judgement on deploying an NMD system is all about. Neither Al Gore nor George W. Bush has provided persuasive evidence to suggest that they are doing anything other than playing politics with the missile defense issue at this point, with potentially grave consequences for U.S. and international security.
Note on sources: This report has drawn on a wide variety of interviews, government and industry documents, articles in major newspapers and the defense trade press, and analyses conducted by other think tanks. For specific cites on any of the facts or quotes cited above, contact the authors. A resource list with links to the major resources used in the production of this report is provided below, in Appendix B.
Defense Companies Receiving the Largest Dollar Amounts of
Pentagon Missile Defense Contracts 1998-99
Source note: Contract data is taken from CD-ROMs of Deparment of Defense contract awards of $25,000 or more produced by Eagle Eye Services of Fairfax, Virginia.
Explanation of headings:
Top Senate Recipients of Defense Industry
PAC Campaign Contributions 1995-99
Top House Recipients of Defense Industry
PAC Campaign Contributions 1995-99
Missile Defense Resource List
The Arms Trade Resource Center would like to thank the following foundations and individuals for supporting our work: the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, W. Alton Jones Foundation, the Compton Foundation, Judy Driscoll, the HKH Foundation, Constance Otis, the Ploughshares Fund, Rockefeller Family Associates, the Samuel Rubin Foundation, Mary Van Evera, Margaret R. Spanel, and the Town Creek Foundation.