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Vast Weapons Industry Runs on OUR Money
Diane S. McAteer

The U.S. defense industry is one of the most heavily subsidized industries in the world. Trillions of dollars have been spent since the beginning of the Reagan military buildup in 1981, to research, develop, and purchase weapons systems for U.S. military forces. The vast majority of these funds were given to private companies like Lockheed Martin and McDonnell Douglas, and thousands of other smaller firms that make up the U.S. military industry. Many of these top firms in the industry derive as much as 75 to 80 percent of their revenues from Pentagon contracts, making them virtual wards of the state, depending on the government for their very survival.

No one expects these private defense firms to give advanced military systems to the Pentagon for free, but the government funds do represent a direct taxpayer subsidy to the industry. The companies are in business with a minimal investment of their own funds, and then turn around and sell that very same weaponry for profit on the world market. Since 1981 taxpayers have provided U.S. military contractors with billions in funding to develop scores of new weapons systems, the majority of which have gone on to be exported to foreign nations.

You and I, as taxpayers, are unknowingly investing in these weapons systems, giving these firms a tremendous advantage when they go out to sell their wares on the world market. They receive huge profits on foreign sales of these same weapons. No other government in the world provides anything even close to this to support its arms manufacturing firms. We spend five times the amount than that of all our Western European allies combined. We also sell more weapons to foreign clients than do all the other nations in the world combined.

At taxpayer expense, weapons manufacturers not only get government money to develop systems such as Lockheed's F-16, but they get more money to help secure foreign sales. Negotiations of costs, payment schedules, and financing are all with assistance of our government. Grants and subsidized loans are given to these countries at--you guessed it--taxpayer expense. We also get to pay for training so they can know how to use these weapons--against us. We are selling out our national security for private gain.

As for the F-22, with a cost of $16 million each, it comes with a glossy brochure that shows a map with countries highlighted who have advanced military aircraft, and pose a threat to our national security. It fails to mention that at least half of the 48 of them received the advanced fighters from the U.S.

U.S. troops are having to go up against our weapons, technology, and training. This has been proven in Bosnia, Panama, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, the Gulf War, and now in Afghanistan. Now, with the most recent conflict in the Middle East, we have been the suppliers that have helped fuel both sides. This unrestrained arms trafficking also means we must have a higher defense budget.

Where is the money for Head Start? For Social Security? For Health Care? The Republican tactics of encouraging conservative voters to use the poor and underclass as a scapegoat sicken me. They are merely trying to divert attention from the voters. This smokescreen of "family values" is meant to hide this horrible secret of "military spending" of yours and my tax dollars.

Further information can be researched from the World Policy Institute, and from various government publications from the US Dept. of Defense, US Office of Management and Budget, Congressional Budget Office, and US General Accounting Office.