Curtailing the Endless Military-Industrial Complex

Military contractors have exploited Washington insiders through lobbying and overcharging since the days of Eisenhower, often at the expense of U.S. troops and taxpayers. This grifting must end.

Kevin Kurian, Staff Writer

The United States’ military spending has reached $934 billion dollars, outpacing all other industrialized countries in a period of official peacetime. The fact that this year’s Pentagon budget is larger than it was at the height of the Cold War is an affront to the American taxpayer. In the shadow of a Pentagon run by former defense lobbyists, it is imperative for passionate truth seekers from different ideologies to unite in order to check the immense power of the military-industrial complex. 

Members of the United States Armed Forces serve their country; however, their service is cheapened through waste, fraud and abuse perpetrated by government contractors. In fiscal year 2019, government contractors were expected to receive $565 billion dollars from the Pentagon’s budget. A significant portion of this taxpayer money went into providing these individuals — mostly from the Pentagon — with cushy six-figure lobbying jobs. These newly christened lobbyists use their existing influence to continue large payments to government contractors. 

This revolving door for lobbyists works both ways. Former Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan spent decades lobbying for Boeing. Current Defense Secretary Mark Esper was the vice president of government relations for Raytheon, a top defense company. In fact, the latter stands to earn at least $1 million from Raytheon in deferred compensation, with higher payment being tied to continued financial success. Here, financial success was created by the taxpayer. 

Esper and his coworkers have an incentive to continue the feckless distribution of funds to private companies because those same contractors will reward them in the future, whether in the form of jobs or deferred compensation packages. As a result, national defense has become a space for unethical collaboration between the public and the private sector, even while this relationship is formally separate. 

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One significant effect of this relationship comes in the form of overcharging. The U.S. Army rented 3,000 cars for $119 million — around $40,000 per car. However, the General Services Administration discovered the Army could rent 1,000 of those same vehicles for $19 million per year — 16% of contractors’ demands. These contractors shamelessly value their profits over the operational integrity of the military as well as the hard work of the American taxpayer. 

Taxpayers are forced to subsidize grossly incompetent companies as well, even when they have a record of substandard work. One instance of this was when KBR, formerly a subsidiary of Halliburton, collected $204 million dollars from the federal government in exchange for electrical work on military bases in Iraq. Twelve service members died as a direct result of KBR’s poor engineering, including a Green Beret soldier who died not in battle, but from shoddy electrical wiring in his shower. This tragedy is underscored by KBR continuously receiving most of its revenue from government contracts. 

Abridging rising military expenditures largely fueled by private contractors should not be a partisan issue. Giving hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars to military contractors in exchange for overpriced, third-rate services is unacceptable.

Opinions expressed on the editorial pages are not necessarily those of WSN, and our publication of opinions is not an endorsement of them.

Email Kevin Kurian at [email protected]

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