The Arms Lobby

The Arms Lobby

William D. Hartung is the author of “About Face,” a World Policy Institute report on the role of the arms lobby in shaping the Bush nuclear doctrine. Click here.


There has been little criticism of the Bush-Putin nuclear accord from within the military-industrial complex, and for good reason. The arms lobby helped to develop the Bush nuclear policy, and it stands to profit from its implementation.

The centerpiece of the Bush nuclear doctrine is a “New Triad” of long-range strike systems, missile defenses and a revitalized nuclear weapons complex that will involve at least $33 billion in new spending over the next five years. Far from impinging on this new nuclear buildup, the Bush-Putin agreement will help to facilitate it by creating a smokescreen behind which a new generation of nuclear weapons will be developed.

The major themes and many of the specific details of the Bush nuclear policy were developed by corporate-backed conservative think tanks like the National Institute for Public Policy and the Center for Security Policy. NIPP’s January 2001 report on the “rationale and requirements” for US nuclear forces served as the model for the Bush Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, which endorsed an expansion of the US nuclear “hit list” and the development of a new generation of “usable,” lower-yield nuclear weapons. Three members of the study group that produced the NIPP report–National Security Council members Stephen Hadley and Robert Joseph and Stephen Cambone, a deputy undersecretary of defense for policy–are now involved in implementing the Bush nuclear policy. NIPP director Keith Payne, best known for co-writing an infamous 1980 essay on nuclear war titled “Victory Is Possible,” has recently joined the Pentagon as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense.

Ever since he left the Reagan Pentagon in 1988 to form the Center for Security Policy, Frank Gaffney has been a central player in the missile defense lobby, bringing together conservative think tanks, anti-arms control members of Congress and major arms makers like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman to press for the deployment of a multitiered missile defense system. Among the twenty-two CSP alumni now serving in the Bush Administration are Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, Secretary of the Air Force James Roche and Richard Perle, who chairs the Defense Policy Board. At CSP’s November 2001 “Keeper of the Flame” awards dinner, Donald Rumsfeld remarked on the large number of center associates serving in the Bush Administration and joked that “I was thinking of calling a staff meeting, but I think I’ll wait until tomorrow.”

While conservative ideologues like Frank Gaffney and Keith Payne have been out front in shaping the Bush nuclear policy, they have received critical backing from weapons contractors. CSP has received more than $3 million in corporate donations since its founding in 1988, including major contributions from companies, like Lockheed Martin and Boeing, that benefit directly from the policies it advocates. Charles Kupperman, Lockheed Martin’s vice president for missile defense programs, serves on the board of directors of both CSP and NIPP. In addition to being a major missile defense contractor, Lockheed Martin runs the Sandia nuclear weapons laboratory and builds the Trident II submarine-launched ballistic missile, both major beneficiaries of the Bush nuclear buildup.

Beyond their links to conservative think tanks, the weapons makers like Lockheed Martin have their own networks of influence inside the Administration. Of the thirty-two former executives, consultants or major shareholders of weapons manufacturers that have been appointed to important positions in the Bush Administration, eight of them have ties to Lockheed Martin. Key company alumni include Undersecretary of the Air Force Peter Teets, who has authority over the acquisition of military space systems, and Everet Beckner, who is in charge of nuclear weapons activities at the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

In short, the nuclear weapons industry doesn’t need to lobby the Bush Administration–to a significant degree, they are the Bush Administration.

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