Military Industry Confidential
very year in Washington,
DC, there’s a four-day U.S. Missile Defense Conference and
Exhibit organized by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
(AIAA) to promote the missile defense program. While the conference
will be happening in the middle of the busy city, it’s a secret
conference only people with security clearance can attend. The Missile
Defense Conference is just one of hundreds of weapon conferences/meetings/workshops
happening every year. Organized by such Pentagon departments as
the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and by civilian-based aerospace
engineer trade associations like AIAA, they are key players in the
development of almost every U.S. weapons program.
Military companies and Pentagon officials acknowledge AIAA’s
leadership in the aerospace and weapons industry. With nearly 30,000
members—including aerospace engineers, corporate management,
military, intelligence and government officials—it’s a
combination engineer’s association, academic research organization,
book publisher, think tank, and political lobbying group. Many of
AIAA’s academic projects are for civilian purposes—such
as commercial aircraft, communication satellites, deep space exploration,
and commercial aircraft maintenance. But most other programs are
for military purposes—aircraft, spy satellites, unmanned aerial
vehicles (UAV), and missile defense programs. AIAA is also a bridge
between the Pentagon, MDA, NASA, and military-related industries,
such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon.
has dozens of technical committees. Each committee organizes its
own annual technical meeting or national convention to discuss their
achievements and political agendas while networking for potential
domestic and foreign customers and building lobbying strategies
for government funding.
The March 2007 Missile Defense Conference in DC was organized by
AIAA members from the missile systems technical committee. Along
with major players at the missile defense programs like David Altwegg,
deputy director of MDA, and Jerry Agee, an executive from Northrop
Grumman, participants also included Pentagon officials, aerospace
engineers, and military contractors. Programs included an interactive
two-hour ballistic missile computer-assisted war game to highlight
the accomplishments of the missile defense program for the past
The conference was tactically scheduled to be concurrent with Congress’s
debate on the military budget. Organizations like AIAA, the Association
for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the National Defense
Industrial Association, along with MDA, have planned dozens of military-weapon
conventions and conferences for this spring, launching their biggest
lobbying campaign since the Regan era in order to build Congressional
and public support for a multi-billion dollar missile defense system
and other weapons programs.
The Fear Factor
ith a proposed 11 percent defense budget
increase for 2008 and a near record-setting $21 billion in U.S.
foreign military sales in 2006, the Pentagon and the military industrial
complex are the clear “winners” in the government’s
budget process. However, still not satisfied, they are warning that
the defense budget will be squeezed by the “big three”
government entitlement programs—Social Security, Medicare,
and Medicaid—within the next several years when “baby-boomers”
Not surprisingly, major aerospace industries are also using massive
PR campaigns to spread fears about military threats from foreign
countries such as Iran, North Korea, China, Russia, and Venezuela.
Aviation Week & Space Technology
have been devoting a large amount of coverage in recent issues to
the Iran and North Korea threats, advocating that the U.S. spend
more money in response.
(2/19) article, with the headline, “China,
Iran Top USAF Threat List,”featured an interview with Air Force
General T. Michael Moseley who argued that, “These emerging
threats require the nation to pay the price to modernize its fleet.”
Likewise, the so-called grassroots Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance
(MDAA) claims to have over 9,000 memberships in over 30 states.
Their board members include a mix of retired generals, corporate
lawyers, dot.com entrepreneurs, condominium developers, and the
head of a student athlete organization. MDAA published a national
opinion poll and found that 79 percent vs. 17 percent of bi-partisan
public opinion overwhelmingly supports missile defense and 53 percent
vs. 38 percent believes the system is affordable.
In addition, think thanks like the Heritage Foundation and Cato
Institute, known for their right-wing conservative advocacy, are
jumping on the bandwagon, helping the military to hard sell the
missile defense program to the public, using their conservative
fiscal analysis to convince Americans to want more guns and less
Missile We Trust?
ince the Reagan era, there has been a lot
of hype for “missile defense,” while critical information
has been withheld from the public. Behind the scenes the research
and development has been non-stop, regardless of who’s been
in the White House.
During the 2006 AIAA Missile Defense Conference, Lt. General Trey
Obering, director of MDA, envisioned the U.S. needing to spend $9
to $10 billion annually between 2006 and 2010 in order to develop:
up to 50 Ground-Based Interceptors, including 10 in Europe
fully integrated Thule radar at Greenland
3 Aegis cruisers and 15 Aegis
81 Standard Missile 3 interceptors
48 Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptors
up to 4 forward-based radars
According to Obering, there are currently at least ten international
partners working with the U.S. missile defense program (Japan, the
UK, Australia, Denmark, Italy, Israel, Germany, the Netherlands,
Turkey, and Spain). Several new potential partnerships include the
Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic, India, and Taiwan.
Within the AIAA and aerospace engineering communities many scientists
have voiced their doubts about the missile defense program and have
sometimes engaged in heated debates during the conference, but Pentagon
officials claim these dissenting views are short -sighted. On February
28 Lockheed Martin was awarded an MDA three-year contract worth
about $980 million to continue work on the Aegis ballistic missile
defense weapon system at their facilities in Bethesda, Maryland
and Moorestown, New Jersey.
Siu Hin is a long-time peace activist, a reporter for Pacifica Radio,
and a national coordinator for the Peace No War Network and the National
Immigrant Solidarity Network.