It’s Time to Reduce Corporate Influence at the Pentagon
By Elizabeth Warren, May 16 2019, (a 6-minute read)
I’ve made the short trip between the Washington DC airport and the United State Senate more times than I can count — sometimes just barely catching my flight back to Boston, Bailey and Bruce. When traffic isn’t too bad, it’s a beautiful ride past many of the spectacular monuments and landmarks in our nation’s capital, including a clear view of the Pentagon just after you cross into Northern Virginia.
The world’s largest office building, the Pentagon, is a sight to behold. But if you look just across the highway, you’ll see another majestic office building with big, sleek letters plastered across the top: Boeing, the country’s second largest defense contractor.
A short drive closer to the airport, and you’ll see the name of Lockheed Martin — the country’s largest defense contractor — on a different fancy office building. In fact, all five of the nation’s top big defense contractors have offices in Northern Virginia.
It’s no surprise that these companies have clustered around the Pentagon, sometimes within walking distance of the building. That proximity represents an intense coziness between giant defense corporations and our Department of Defense.
There are talented and patriotic Americans who work in the defense industry. And there’s no question that public and private collaboration has helped produce real advances in new technology. But today, the coziness between defense lobbyists, Congress, and the Pentagon — what former President Dwight D. Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex — tilts countless decisions, big and small, away from legitimate national security interests and toward the desires of giant corporations that thrive off taxpayer dollars.
These giant contractors have deployed an extremely profitable strategy: recruit armies of lobbyists from former Pentagon officials and congressional staffers who stream through the revolving door. Then, get those former officials to use their relationships and access to influence our country’s national security apparatus for one purpose — to secure lucrative contracts and boost profits. In 2018 alone, the top 20 defense contractors hired 645 former senior government officials, top military brass, Members of Congress, and senior legislative staff as lobbyists, board members, or senior executives. 90 percent of these former officials became registered lobbyists.
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