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    Middle East
     Jun 26, 2008
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The Pentagon's merchants of war
By Nick Turse

The top Pentagon contractors, like death and taxes, almost never change. In 2002, the massive arms dealers Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman ranked one, two and three among Department of Defense (DoD) contractors, taking in US$17 billion, $16.6 billion and $8.7 billion.

Lockheed, Boeing and Northrop Grumman did it again in 2003 ($21.9 billion, $17.3 billion and $11.1 billion); 2004 ($20.7 billion, $17.1 billion and $11.9 billion); 2005 ($19.4 billion, $18.3 billion and $13.5 billion); 2006 ($26.6 billion, $20.3 billion and $16.6 billion); and, not surprisingly, 2007 as well ($27.8 billion $22.5 billion and $14.6 billion).

Other regulars receiving mega-tax-funded payouts in a similarly


clockwork-like manner include defense giants General Dynamics, Raytheon, the British weapons maker BAE Systems and former Halliburton subsidiary KBR, as well as BP, Shell and other power players from the military-petroleum complex.

With the basic Pentagon budget now clocking in at roughly $541 billion per year - before "supplemental" war funding for Iraq, Afghanistan and President George W Bush's "war on terror", as well as national security spending by other agencies, are factored in - even Lockheed's hefty $28 billion take is a small percentage of the massive total. Obviously, significant sums of money are headed to other companies. However, most of them, including some of the largest, are all but unknown even to Pentagon-watchers and antiwar critics with a good grasp of the military industrial complex.

Last year, in a piece headlined "Washington's $8 billion shadow", Vanity Fair published an expose of one of the better-known large stealth contractors, SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation). SAIC, however, is just one of tens of thousands of Pentagon contractors. Many of these firms receive only tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Pentagon every year. Some take home millions, tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars.

Then there's a select group that are masters of the universe in the ever-expanding military-corporate complex, regularly scoring more than a billion tax dollars a year from the DoD. Unlike Lockheed, Boeing and Northrop Grumman, however, most of these billion-dollar babies manage to fly beneath the radar of media (not to mention public) attention. If appearing at all, they generally do so innocuously in the business pages of newspapers. When it comes to their support for the Pentagon's wars and occupations in Afghanistan and Iraq, they are, in media terms, missing in action.

So, who are some of these mystery defense contractors you've probably never heard of? Here are snapshot portraits, culled largely from their own corporate documents, of five of the Pentagon's secret billion-dollar babies:

1. MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc.
Its total DoD dollars in 2007 were $3,360,739,032. This is billionaire investor Ronald Perelman's massive holding company. It has "interests in a diversified portfolio of public and private companies" that includes the cosmetics maker Revlon and Panavision (the folks who make the cameras that bring you TV shows like 24 and CSI).

MacAndrews & Forbes might, at first blush, seem an unlikely defense contractor, but one of those privately owned companies it holds is AM General - the folks who make the military Humvee. Today, says the company, nearly 200,000 Humvees have been "built and delivered to the US armed forces and more than 50 friendly overseas nations". Humvees, however, are only part of the story.

AM General has also assisted Carnegie Mellon University researchers in developing robots for the Pentagon blue-skies outfit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's "Grand Challenge", an autonomous robot-vehicle competition. Last year, AM General and General Dynamics Land Systems, a subsidiary of mega-weapons maker General Dynamics, formed a joint venture "to compete for the US Army and Marine Corps Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) program". AM General has even gone to war - dispatching its "field service representatives" and "maintenance technical representatives" to Iraq where they were embedded with US troops.

As such, it's hardly surprising that, this year, the company received one of the Defense Logistics Agency's Outstanding Readiness Support Awards. Nor should anyone be surprised to discover that a top MacAndrews & Forbes corporate honcho, executive vice chairman and chief administrative officer Barry F Schwartz, contributed a total of at least $10,000 to Straight Talk America, the political action committee of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who famously said it would be "fine" with him if US troops occupied Iraq for "maybe a hundred years" (if not "a thousand" or "a million").

Perhaps hedging their bets just a bit, MacAndrews & Forbes is diversifying into an emerging complex-within-the-complex: homeland security. Recently, AM General sold the Department of Homeland Security's Border Patrol "more than 100 HUMMER K-series trucks for use in border security operations".

2. DRS Technologies, Inc.
Its total DoD dollars in 2007 were $1,791,321,140. Incorporated during the Vietnam War, DRS Technologies has long been "a leading supplier of integrated products, services and support to military forces, intelligence agencies and prime contractors worldwide"; that is, they have been in the business of fielding products that enhance some of the DoD's deadliest weaponry, including "DDG-51 Aegis destroyers, M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks, M2A3 Bradley fighting vehicles, OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopters, AH-64 Apache helicopters, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters, F-15 Eagle tactical fighters ... [and] Ohio, Los Angeles and Virginia class submarines."

They even have "contracts that support future military platforms, such as the DDG-1000 destroyer, CVN-78 next-generation aircraft carrier, Littoral combat ship and Future Combat System".

In addition to 2007's haul of Pentagon dollars, DRS Technologies has continued to clean up in 2008 for a range of projects, including: a $16.2 million army contract for refrigeration units; $51 million in new orders from the army for thermal weapon sights (part of a five-year, $2.3-billion deal inked in 2007); a $10.1 million contract to build more than 140 M989A1 heavy expanded mobility ammunition trailers (to transport "numerous and extremely heavy multiple launch rocket system pods, palletized or non-palletized conventional ammunition and fuel bladders"); and a $23 million deal "to provide engineering support, field service support and general depot repairs for the mast mounted sights (MMS) on OH-58 Kiowa Warrior attack helicopters," among many other contracts.

Fitch Ratings, an international credit rating agency, recently made a smart, if perhaps understated, point - one that actually fits all of these billion-dollar babies. DRS, it wrote, "has benefited from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan ..."

3. Harris Corporation
Its total DoD dollars in 2007 were $1,501,163,834. Harris is "an international communications and information technology company serving government, defense and commercial markets in more than 150 countries".

It has an annual revenue of more than $4 billion and an impressive roster of former military personnel and other military-corporate complex insiders on its payroll. Not only does Harris assist and do business with a number of the Pentagon's largest contractors (like Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems), it is also an active participant in occupations abroad.

On its website, the company boasts, "Harris technology has been used for a variety of commercial and defense applications, including the war in Iraq where the [Harris software] system provided detailed, 3-D representations of Baghdad and other key Iraqi cities."

Last year, Harris signed multiple deals with the military, including contracts to create a high-speed digital data link that transmits tactical video, radar, acoustic and other sensor data from US 

Continued 1 2  

How the Pentagon shapes the world
(May 31, '08)

The US: Your masters of the universe (May 9, '08)

1. Russia joins the war in Afghanistan

2. Worst of times for Iran

3. Are they really oil wars?

4. Pakistan calls the shots

5. The myth of 'weapons-grade' enrichment

6. Middle East serves US some humble pie

7. The murder of US manufacturing

8. A new model for nastiness

9. Vietnam's hard lesson for China

(24 hours to 11:59 pm ET, June 24, 2008)


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