Economy and military should be separate

Justin Playl and Justin Playl

Last week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced he was cutting program funding to the F-22, a massively overpriced line of high-tech fighter jets from Lockheed Martin. This controversial action sparked a debate over whether or not the jets are necessary to national security, and if the economy is strong enough to weather job losses associated with the program’s dissolution. The economy! The very idea that the economy should figure into national security decisions is preposterous. However, the sad fact of the matter is, since the end of World War II, the economy and military have been inextricably linked. Due to the amount of labor and resources needed to run the American war machine during WWII, the government began contracting out weapons production to private industries. The relationship between these two strange bedfellows has never ended. Now, America has a serious complex. The symbiotic (or possibly parasitic) relationship between the Defense Department and private defense contractors is called the military-industrial complex. As Secretary Gates’s controversial budget cut illustrates, the needs of a few private industries now equal, and perhaps outweigh, the need for national defense. Lockheed Martin argues that ending the F-22 program would force them to lay off many thousands of workers in 49 states, damaging both the company and the workers. The only reason the F-22 program involves so many states is a political ploy on Lockheed’s part. By manufacturing a component of the jet in almost every state, the company ensures any program cuts will be felt by many states, meaning a large number of Congressmen will rush to defend it. Arguing the F-22 is necessary for national security would be legitimate, but being concerned over job losses (especially when the job losses is a blatant ploy to preserve the program) is missing the point. The Department of Defense should not be in the business of giving taxpayer dollars to private firms or creating jobs; leave that to the Treasury and Labor Departments. The sole concern of Gates should be the safety of the nation. Since the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, defense contractors have taken even greater roles in national security. No longer content to merely manufacture weapons, some firms have begun to wield them. Blackwater, for example, actually began to contract out ‘security service personnel,’ a politically-neutral term for mercenaries. These hired guns were not answerable to the Iraqi judiciary or U.S. military, making it difficult to control their actions. This lack of control over the mercenaries led to bloodshed and scandals. I’m going to propose something radical. In order to destroy the military-industrial complex, thus ending the influence of private industry over national defense, the Defense Department should take over all contractors in their employ. The U.S. military should no longer be swayed by the needs of a few private businesses. All military power should be held by public officials directly answerable to the American people. Some might argue letting the government seize control over the manufacturing of weapons, a role traditionally reserved for private industry, is communist. However, other branches of the government perform their own manufacturing. The Treasury Department, for example, prints its own money. In fact, the very idea of contracting out money production to firms which work for profit is ridiculous. Why is the idea of letting those same firms make guns for our military any less ridiculous? Besides, back in 1913, the Treasury Department decided the best way to stabilize the economy was to seize control of the banking system with the creation of the Federal Reserve. I’m suggesting the Defense Department do the same thing – stabilize our military by seizing control of defense contractors. As President Eisenhower warned in his 1961 farewell address, ‘In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence… by the military-industrial complex.” The twin cornerstones of American democracy are transparency of political process and the answerability of policymakers to the American people.’ When defense contractors become policymakers, both of these cornerstones are reduced to rubble.