War for Profit – How Defense Contractors Influence Washington Policy

When President Dwight D. Eisenhower1 left his post on January 17, 1961, he warned the country of what he thought was a major threat. According to the leader, the military industrial complex formed of lobbyists and military contractors is a great threat to the nation since it will strive to keep America at war for the purpose of profit. Meanwhile, today’s politicians are struggling to justify the country’s continued presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No End to Battle

In considering the perpetual war that Americans are facing, the country failed to heed President Eisenhower’s warning. In the United States, war has become a for-profit enterprise, and because of this, defense contractors work to influence Washington policy. As the country draws down on operations in one country, American leaders demand military involvement in another part of the world.

While continuous war creates constant losses for military families along with ever-expanding defense budgets, it also signifies continuous profits for defense contractors. In the United States, a conveniently undefined and concealed enemy powers the modern-day military complex. This enemy is the terrorist.

When President George W. Bush was in office, he and his aides constantly referred to the country’s counter-terrorism operations as a war. The push to refer to it as such was not only to make the operation appear more powerful, but it also gave officials the added benefit of capitalizing on the president’s essential powers while maxing out military and homeland security budgets.

How Do Defense Contractors Influence Washington Policy?

For every one member of Congress, the military industrial complex has two lobbyists pushing for policy in their favor. In 2013, contractors invested around $53 million to influence members of Congress. It was a good investment since the government organization gave them $142 billion in contracts. This spring, the Pentagon’s largest contractors mounted their own attack on Capitol Hill by sending more than 400 lobbyists to push for even more spending on military hardware.

Defense contractors appear to be governing the country’s public policy decisions with their disproportionate political influence. It’s easy for Congress to justify more money for defense when the additional funds are putting people to work in their own districts. Awarding defense organizations with lucrative contracts tends to increase the money that members of Congress have for reelection making it even easier for defense contractors to influence Washington policy.

Exploiting a Crisis

This year, the largest defense companies in the United States have been trading at record prices with shareholders receiving enormous profits from accelerating military conflicts. The country’s current list of conflicts include the war in Afghanistan, military interventions against Syria and the Islamic State of Iraq in addition to NATO’s personnel expansion to monitor Russia’s actions in the Ukraine.

William Hartung, the Center for International Policy’s director over the Arms and Security Project, made a comment about defense contractors2. He said that they are “trying to exploit the crisis.” With investors hurriedly gobbling up the stocks of weapons manufacturers, defense contractors appear to be succeeding in their exploitation attempts.

Does War Keep the Economy Afloat?

When asked, politicians usually avoid admitting that war is good for the country’s economy. However, homeland security and military budgets currently provide financial support for millions of people at a time when the economy is declining. Legislators send hundreds of billions of dollars from the public’s reserves to defense contractors and agencies that have a major motivation to keep America at war.

The country’s war-based financial system is even on display in the education sector. For instance, today’s graduates can earn college degrees in counterterrorism consulting. They can also complete programs to work in secret intelligence. America currently has 16 different spy organizations with around 107,000 employees. These agencies are in addition to the more than one million people employed by the national security departments and military divisions. At the heart of this growing complex are defense contractors, corporations and lobbyists. They have developed an immense terror driven industry that is not only powerful, but it is also self-sustaining. Their size and power makes it possible for them to influence Washington policy according to their interests.

Can America Change?

Prior to World War II, America did not have defense contractors. Once the United States was forced into the war, it started manufacturing and selling weapons. Arms were sold to England, Russia and France.

When war becomes a for-profit endeavor, there is little incentive at the top for peace. With defense contractors whispering in the ears of politicians, America’s youth are likely to live their whole lives under the threat of war. Term limits for senators may work to alleviate this depressing future. As the next generation becomes old enough to vote, their voices against war could bring about change. For more information about the circumstances involving the war for profit movement, head to the Personal Money Store site.

  1. President Dwight D. Eisenhower
  2. defense contractors