US Weapons Industry Bombs the World for Profits but the Pentagon Is Not a Sacred Cow
December 16, 2017
teleSUR & The Editorial Board of the New York Times
In 2016, global arms producers saw $375 billion in profits, with the US weapons industry claiming more than half the global sales. Meanwhile, back in the US, the Pentagon continues to waste about one in five of the dollars it receives. Health care, Social Security, Medicare and other social programs are all on the chopping block as Republicans race to write tax bill that benefits large corporations (including arms makers) but the Pentagon remains a sacred cow, destined to receive yet more taxpayer dollars.
Report: US Weapons Industry Claimed
Over Half of Global Arms Sales in 2016
WASHINGTON (December 13, 2017) -- Anew report by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, revealed that despite the slump in global arms industry for five consecutive years, in 2016, arms producers world over saw US $375 billion in profits, with the US weapons industry claiming over half the global sales.
"The growth in arms sales was expected and was driven by the implementation of new national major weapon programs, ongoing military operations in several countries, and persistent regional tensions that are leading to an increased demand for weapons," according to SIPRI 's latest analysis.
Per the document, US companies' sales rose by four percent. US weapons producers which claimed the largest share of sales, about 58 percent, raked up US$$217 billion worth of sales.
Over half the 20 weapon sellers listed by SIPRI in its report were US companies. Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman ranked among the top five, with Lockheed Martin being the world's top producer. Per the SIPRI fact sheet, Lockheed Martin's sales grew by 10.7 percent last year.
One of the report's authors, Aude Fleurant, also the director of SIPRI's Arms and Military Expenditures Program, attributed Lockheed Martin's status to "the acquisition of helicopter producer Sikorsky in late 2015 and higher delivery volumes of the F-35 combat aircraft."
Earlier in September, the US Senate approved a US$700 billion dollar military-spending bill for 2018.
Citing North Korea as a threat, the bill aims to bulk up of the military with more ships, aircraft, and troops. Part of the bill is also supposed to strengthen the missile technology against North Korea.
The defense bill will pump nearly US $634 billion into the fiscal year 2018 for key Pentagon operations, with about US $66 billion alone for the war operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other countries.
Sales of arms and military services world over increased by 38 percent since SIPRI started its analysis in 2002. The researchers also noted that China's military spending "increased almost threefold between 2002 and 2016," and an estimated nine of 10 Chinese companies could be included in the top 100 list -- with four to six in the top 20 -- given the data were publicly available.
SIPRI also listed companies based in Brazil, India, South Korea, and Turkey as "emerging producers."
The Pentagon Is Not a Sacred Cow
The Editorial Board of the New York Times
(December 13, 2017) -- Health care, Social Security, Medicare and other social programs are all on the chopping block as the Republican-led Congress scrambles to make up for the revenue lost to its planned tax cuts. The Pentagon, however, remains a sacred cow, destined to receive yet more money.
The military budget is now $643 billion. The actual and potential threats from Russia, China, North Korea and Islamic extremists are all serious, but giving the Pentagon another huge increase defies common sense.
The Pentagon already wastes about one in five of the taxpayer dollars it receives, according to a Pentagon-commissioned study. And the United States, which has plenty of other urgent needs, already spends more on its military than the next seven countries combined.
The opening bid for the 2018 defense budget came from President Trump, who in May proposed $677 billion. That was $54 billion above a budget cap set by Congress in 2011, after the 2008 financial crisis led to demands for fiscal restraint.
Then last month, Congress upped his ante by passing a 2018 military authorization bill that would increase spending to around $700 billion, some $85 billion above the legal cap. Mr. Trump signed that bill into law on Tuesday.
For the moment, that increase is a fiction. Before it can occur, Congress must remove the 2011 caps and appropriate the money. That is the focus of the present budget battle on Capitol Hill. Republican leaders reportedly want to increase military spending by at least Mr. Trump's original figure of $54 billion and nonmilitary spending by $37 billion. Democratic leaders are insisting on equal increases for both categories.
What's not clear is that the Pentagon needs any increase until it can get a handle on waste, which a 2015 study estimated at $125 billion, about one-fifth of its budget.
The Pentagon had a virtual blank check after the Sept. 11 attacks, as it went after Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and then turned its attention to overthrowing Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Military spending in 2017 is already as high as during the armed forces buildup of the 1980s.
The proposed increase, coming after the United States has withdrawn thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, would take it even higher.
Mr. Trump, bedazzled by men in uniform and enthralled by displays of weaponry, says more money is needed to build bigger and better forces. And senior commanders have lobbied hard for a big increase to upgrade a military they say lacks readiness, meaning the training and equipment needed to fight.
It's certainly true that the military, cut back after the Cold War, was strained during the 16 years of near constant war after Sept. 11. Yet the ground troops who are doing the actual fighting say there is no crisis, according to the analyst Mark Thompson of the Center for Defense Information at the Project on Government Oversight. Other experts say claims of a deteriorating military are exaggerated.
Some increases are understandable, even inevitable. For instance, from 2001 to 2012, the average cost per active service member grew by 61 percent, when adjusted for inflation, because of new and expanded benefits, increasing health care costs and pay-raises.
Those costs prompted the Pentagon to reduce personnel, says Todd Harrison, an expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
But other increases arise from a dysfunctional congressional budget process complicated by lobbyists who woo lawmakers to back unneeded or extravagant weapons. That's how lawmakers wind up investing in programs that don't deliver, like the overbudget F-35 jet fighter, and modernizing the nuclear arsenal at an estimated cost of $1 trillion over the next 30 years, when smarter choices would cost less and still keep the country safe.
One encouraging sign is that the Pentagon's acquisition chief, Ellen Lord, is talking to Congress about moving away from high-tech toys that may no longer be relevant or affordable. Another is that the Pentagon has decided to launch its first (believe it or not) audit.
Like other federal agencies, the Pentagon can't have it all. The military is critical to national security. That does not give it license to be a poor steward of resources and gobble up tax dollars at the expense of other programs.
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