Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Your military-industrial complex at work

I was looking for a recent news item on the Pentagon's assessments of Iraq's military readiness, which by accident led me to a Pentagon press release of February 13.

It appears that although some December contract awards were already announced, an addendum was necessary "due to an administrative oversight and change of personnel." You know how that can happen when your mind is on other matters.

I did a quick and dirty calculation to see how much had slipped their minds. The total came to $4,488,356,536 or $4.5 billion, which were enough goodies in the corporate stockings to free Africa from poverty—or at least the Appalachians.

The press release advises that if you have any questions about this you should call a certain technical sergeant.

Yes, it was a very merry Christmas for the American war industry. Companies that would have perished long ago in our much-beloved free market were given a dose of restorative elixir. Others were perhaps forgiven their many sins and welcomed back into the fold.

Take Boeing. They led the list of Air Force contracts with a cool $1 billion. Well, don't think it isn't money well spent. Boeing was awarded this "indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract fee" as a sole-source contractor. The company is to act as a "Product Support Integrator (PSI)." If you're not familiar with the term, let the Pentagon explain—

The PSI will be responsible for all logistics, maintenance, modernization, and engineering activities to ensure a coordinated and synergistic sustainment and modification, and engineering activities to ensure a coordinated and synergistic E-4 efforts currently procured on separate contracts are being combined into one contract. This includes the current Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) effort, Engineering Support Services (ESS), Message Processing System (MPS) maintenance and software support modification block one-production installations.

It looks as if they're going to be very, very busy.

This may be kiss-and-make-up time between the Air Force and Boeing. According to the Wikipedia entry on Lockheed Martin—

In 2003 Lockheed Martin benefited from a USAF decision to punish Boeing for conducting industrial espionage against its rival. The USAF revoked $1 billion worth of contracts from Boeing and awarded them to Lockheed Martin. The company sued Boeing in 1998 for stealing documents related to a military contract.

Fancy that! In 2003 Boeing lost a billion-dollar contract and at the end of 2005 they gained it back, with some other contracts thrown in to sweeten the pot. So it all works out, doesn't it?

When you consider that Boeing was—at least temporarily—penalized a billion dollars for doing what capitalist corporations do naturally—i.e., steal, it may surprise you to learn that providing information to foreign governments is a mild offense by comparison—

In 2000 Lockheed agreed to pay a $13 million settlement to the US government for breaching the arms export control act. The company passed information to AsiaSat, a major shareholder of which is the Chinese government.

In the current supplementary contract list Lockheed Martin1 in its various guises is awarded $645,351,951,2 so it can afford the fine.

I haven't thoroughly inspected the contracts to assure against fraud and waste because I know that reporters from our major news organizations and staff from the Congressional offices have already done that, right? But a few items did catch my untrained eye.

For instance, the Missile Defense Agency, which our civilian scientists doubt will ever knock out a missile—even one of our own, has contracted with Raytheon to "provide algorithm development and analysis of radar systems for ballistic missile defense critical functions." The ballistic missile defense's critical function is presumably to knock out incoming missiles. Does this mean that Raytheon is to provide the software to do this for a mere $50 million? They may be underbudgeted.

Then there's the Lockheed Martin contract for $14,300,000 to help with foreign military sales to Greece, Taiwan, Chile, Jordan and Oman, which is like a grant to sell hotdogs at a baseball park.

But the most vital contract may be with a company I had not heard of—Applied Minds. Their task is

to establish Innovation-Nodes (iNodes), which will be small, flexible organizations that execute Rapid Reaction Innovation solution efforts or tasks. iNodes assemble teams from a network of experts, supply teams with the infrastructure and enablers that allow them to accomplish their jobs quickly and effectively, and quickly innovate, demonstrate, and deliver prototypical hardware, software, integrated systems solutions, or services to solve urgent operator or other user problems.

In other words, they're to assemble teams who will apply their minds to urgent problems. So far they haven't been called upon.


1According to their website, the company's motto is "We never forget who we're working for." Unfortunately they do not reveal who that is. [back]

2Such exact numbers may come as a surprise. You might have supposed that the Pentagon budgets in units of millions, but they are wonderfully precise in the amount of tax money they are going to spend—down to the dollar. [back]

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