This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. Click here to listen to the author explain the unsettling reach of Lockheed Martin.
Have you noticed that Lockheed Martin, the giant weapons corporation, is shadowing you? No? Then you haven’t been paying much attention. Let me put it this way: If you have a life, Lockheed Martin is likely a part of it.
True, Lockheed Martin doesn’t actually run the US government, but sometimes it seems as if it might as well. After all, it received $36 billion in government contracts in 2008 alone, more than any company in history. It now does work for more than two dozen government agencies from the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy to the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s involved in surveillance and information processing for the CIA, the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Pentagon, the Census Bureau and the Postal Service.
Oh, and Lockheed Martin has even helped train those friendly Transportation Security Administration agents who pat you down at the airport. Naturally, the company produces cluster bombs, designs nuclear weapons and makes the F-35 Lightning (an overpriced, behind-schedule, underperforming combat aircraft that is slated to be bought by customers in more than a dozen countries)—and when it comes to weaponry, that’s just the start of a long list. In recent times, though, it’s moved beyond anything usually associated with a weapons corporation and has been virtually running its own foreign policy, doing everything from hiring interrogators for US overseas prisons (including at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba and Abu Ghraib in Iraq) to managing a private intelligence network in Pakistan and helping write the Afghan constitution.
A For-Profit Government-in-the-Making
If you want to feel a tad more intimidated, consider Lockheed Martin’s sheer size for a moment. After all, the company receives one of every fourteen dollars doled out by the Pentagon. In fact, its government contracts, thought about another way, amount to a "Lockheed Martin tax" of $260 per taxpaying household in the United States, and no weapons contractor has more power or money to wield to defend its turf. It spent $12 million on congressional lobbying and campaign contributions in 2009 alone. Not surprisingly, it’s the top contributor to the incoming House Armed Services Committee chairman, Republican Howard P. "Buck" McKeon of California, giving more than $50,000 in the most recent election cycle. It also tops the list of donors to Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI), the powerful chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the self-described "#1 earmarks guy in the US Congress."