Congress Forces Weapons Spending the Pentagon Wanted Cancelled

Writing in Roll Call October 18, John Donnelly analyzed federal spending on weapons unwanted by the Pentagon. A report made public in early October shows that Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord attempted to save about $1 billion in weapons spending, but was stopped by the Appropriations and the Armed Services Committees in both the Senate and the House.

These four committees have repeatedly kept hundreds of millions of tax dollars gushing into the coffers of the world’s biggest weapons contractors — for weapons declared unnecessary by the military. The committees can even refuse to reject the savings recommendations without saying why. Donnelly wrote, “None of the four defense panels provided CQ Roll Call an explanation for forcing the Pentagon to keep spending money on particular initiatives.”

“The Pentagon had said it does not need the $500 million-plus that was appropriated for the fighter jets, helicopters, ships, vehicles, and bombs made by four of its top five contractors” (Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman). But, Roll Call reports, “Congressional Appropriations and Armed Services committees, for reasons that none of them would divulge, insisted that the military spend the money anyway.”

Last year’s political contributions by some of the companies whose contracts were saved by congress, were: Lockheed: $5,055,874; Northrup Grumman: $5,269,016; General Dynamics: $3,378,838; and Boeing: $464,629, according to OpenSecrets online whose researchers also found that the top 20 weapons contractors contributed $47 million to federal candidates, parties, and outside groups in 2020. Capitol Hill arm-twisting by the top 20’s 675 registered lobbyists (1.2 for each member on the hill) totaled more than $87 million in 2021.

Some of the savings rejected by Congress were:

* $60 million for Air Force F-35 fighter jet procurements, and going to Lockheed Martin

* $2 billion a year for the last seven years on F-35s that the Pentagon did not order

* $15 million for Lockheed Martin’s CH-53K helicopter program

* $194 million for Boeing’s Grey Wolf helicopters

* $18 million for procurement and modifications for Boeing’s Super Hornet fighter jet

* $73 million for an unrequested Expeditionary Sea Base ship made by General Dynamics

* $66 million on unneeded “General Purpose Bombs,” mostly made by General Dynamics

* $59 million for a Northrup Grumman bomb fuse

In a related case, Boeing won a $1.62 billion contract in September to repair guidance systems on the Air Force’s 400 Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. The 18-year contract will run simultaneously with the $2.6 billion scam for Northrup Grumman to build the Minuteman III’s replacement ICBM, dubbed the G.B.S.D. (for Giant Budget-Smashing Deceit).

The merger of state and corporate power as Mussolini called it was outlined well in a November 9 piece by Joe Cirincione at Responsible Statecraft titled “How the nuclear game is rigged to maintain the status quo,” which notes that the same giant weapons contractors also build nuclear weapons. “To protect those contracts, these arms firms deploy a small army of lobbyists in Washington, run a revolving door that shuttles officials between top policy jobs and top contractor jobs, disperse contracts to nearly every congressional district, contribute generously to lawmakers on the key committees that oversee their programs, are major advertisers in all the publications covering national security, and have flooded Washington think tanks over the past 20 years with grants to mute criticism of their programs.”

These are the salient facts and figures to remember when your lawmakers wonder how they are to pay for single-payer health coverage for all, parental leave benefits, childcare and eldercare services, a livable and universal minimum wage, college education grants, prison reform, alcohol, and drug rehabilitation, and pollution control enforcement.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.