Intelligence Research & Development Outsourced

NeverSleepsAfter the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011, Congress opened up the check book and the intelligence community suddenly found itself able to get everything that had been on its wish list for years. Now the budget constraints on the intelligence community have forced the outsourcing of research and developments, which some in the community do not think will achieve the desired results:

Experts said the shift reflects a larger issue in the defense contracting community: Companies are less willing to take risks, and the government doesn’t have the money to fund all the innovation it needs.

“I think there’s an acknowledgment that the system is broken,” a senior industry executive said. But the executive was skeptical that the commercial sector will or can make up for the R&D deficit.

“We’ve seen this before. For a period of time there’s been a big call on using commercial capabilities in the space area, and it just hasn’t worked. They haven’t achieved the kinds of engineering feats that are required in defense.”

That the federal government would turn toward commercial space makes sense given differing perceptions of risk, said Peter Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution.

“One of the major shifts is how the civilian side is accelerating not just ahead, but in some case well past the innovation from the traditional firms,” he wrote in an email. “And a large part of that is due to a business model that looks at risk as not something to be pushed on the government, but part of the very act of being in business.”

Read more here.


Pentagon Places Half a Billion Dollar Drone Order With Northrop Grumman

RQ-4 Global Hawk/Operation New DawnThe Department of Defense has place a half billion order of drones with Northrop Grumman. Reuters reports that the $555 million contract is for Northrop’s Global Hawk drones:

Northrop Grumman Corp has won a contract worth up to $555.6 million for modernization of the high-altitude Global Hawk unmanned plane, the Pentagon announced on Monday.

The company’s contract with the Air Force runs through May 14, 2015, the department said in its daily digest of big weapons deals.

The contract covers a wide range of activities, including management, engineering efforts, reliability, availability and diminishing manufacturing sources.

Photo: A U.S. Air Force RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft assigned to the 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, has its pre-flight checks accomplished by maintenance technicians prior to a flying mission Nov. 23, 2010, while deployed at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andy M. Kin)

Committee to Defend the Military-Industrial Complex

McKeon UnmannedThe levels of power in Washington, D.C. are pulled by those with the most influence or those that can buy the most influence. Rep. Buck McKeon has a significant amount of influence as Chairman of the powerful Armed Services committee. McKeon’s is one of the most strident defenders of the military-industrial complex, and his corporate campaign donors have purchased his influence to protect their industry.

McKeon has been among the loudest voices against any reduction in military spending, and has often couched this defense with reasons including supporting the troops or supporting American jobs. In an op-ed in USA Today, McKeon wrote that “for the past two years, the Pentagon has suffered cut after damaging cut, killing off vital military modernization programs and atrophying our military’s end strength.”

According to McKeon, “the Obama Defense Department cut back or canceled more than 20 major military modernization systems and slashed our strategic nuclear deterrent.” Among these programs was a second engine for F-35 fighter, which the military and Defense Department had determined was a waste of money. Lead by Republicans, Congress has continued to fund the program despite DOD opposition.

McKeon’s support for continued and unsustainable military spending seems to be at odds with what his constituents and the American people want. Americans support reducing defense spending. Poll after poll has shown that they support it. In January of 2011 a CBS News poll found that 52% of those surveyed were “willing” to reduce defense spending. In February of 2011 a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that a majority of those surveyed felt that national defense “could be cut significantly.”

In the US House of Representatives the Chairmen of the various committees have the power to assign members of their committees as chairmen of the various subcommittees. McKeon has been using his power as Chairman to appoint members of congress who have been bought and paid for by the defense industry. Last month, McKeon announced his nominations for chairmen of the various Armed Services subcommittees. Every single appointed chairman is flush with cash from the defense industry.

Previously known as the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Unconventional Threats and Capabilities, the Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee oversees counter-terrorism, Special Operations Forces, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) among other programs. The committee is chaired by Rep. Mac Thornberry, who received more than $154,000 in campaign contributions from the defense industry in the 2012 election cycle.

According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the majority of defense industry campaign contributions to Rep. Thornberry were from Political Action Committee (PAC) money. His single biggest contributor was the defense industry giant Northrop Grumman, which contributed $18,000 to his campaign. Several other defense industry companies gave to Thornberry’s campaign including $12,850 from Textron Inc, $10,250 from General Dynamics, and $10,000 from Lockheed Martin.

As Chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, Rep. Randy Forbes will oversee the US Navy and Marine Corps including procurement and research ad development programs. Forbes received more than $120,000 from the defense industry in campaign contributions during the last election cycle. More than 84 percent of these contributions came from PAC donations.

Forbes’ second largest contributor was Northrop Grumman, which contributed 19,300 to his campaign – even more than it contributed to Thornberry. Other defense industry companies that donated to Forbes’ campaign included SAIC Inc, which contributed $10,500, BAE Systems, which contributed $10,000, and Raytheon, which also contributed $10,000.

Each of the other four chairmen of subcommittees received significant contributions from the defense industry. Rep. Rob Wittman chairman of the Readiness subcommittee received more than $147,000; Rep. Mike Turner, chairman of the Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee received more than $133,000; Rep. Mike Rogers chairman of the Strategic Forces subcommittee received more than $132,000; and Rep. Joe Wilson, chairman of the Military Personnel subcommittee received more than $98,000;

Northrop Grumman is among the largest campaign contributors to chairmen and members of the Armed Services committee. During the 2012 cycle Northrop Grumman contributed more than $3 million to federal campaigns. More than $772,000 went to members of the Armed Services committee, more than any other committee membership. In fiscal year 2012 Northrop Grumman received contracts from the DOD worth more than $14.8 billion. Studies suggest that a defense industry company like Northrop Grumman may be getting a return on their investment.

According to a study by St. Louis University professor Christopher Witko, there is a connection between campaign contributions and government contracts. The study, “Campaign Contributions, Access, and Government Contracting,” examined campaign contributions and contracts from 1979 to 2006, and found that “significant relationship between contributions and the receipt of future contracts.”

The study concluded that for every $201,220 a company contributes to campaigns, they can expect an additional 107 government contracts. In 2006 the average government contract was $49,800, which would place the value of 107 contracts at approximately $5.3 million. It is also worth noting that during the time period examined in the study (2000 through 2007the number of no-bid contracts tripled, reaching 207 billion. By 2005 approximately 40% of contracts did not arise from full competitive bidding processes.

Photo: Rep. Buck McKeon meeting with the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) in April 2011.

Republicans, Fiscal Conservatives, and the Military-Industrial Complex

Nathan DealDuring the 2012 presidential campaign one of the narratives that Republicans tried to push was that the government does not create jobs and that only the private sector can create jobs. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney constantly criticized President Barack Obama for his lack of private sector experience, and claimed that Obama and Congressional Democrats thought that only the government could create jobs and not private enterprise. Now as the specter of the so-called “fiscal cliff” looms and the Department of Defense faces budget cuts under the sequester, Republicans have suddenly come to the conclusion that government does create jobs.

Georgia is a state with a wide military footprint. Nine military bases contribute an estimated $20 billion to the state’s economy. Fort Benning, home to 3rd Infantry Division, 3rd Ranger Battalion, and the 75th Ranger Regiment, supports more than 120,000 active duty military personnel, families, and support personnel and is the single largest employer in Columbus. In Augusta, Fort Gordon is home to more than 30,000 military personnel and their families, and the home of the United States Army Signal Corps is one of the largest employers in the area.

Georgia’s Republican Gov. Nathan Deal has initiated an effort to shield the military bases in his state from the possible effects of not just the sequester, but also base closures and the drawdown of the military after the ending of two wars. Deal, who claims the mantel a small government conservative Republican and who was elected despite using government for his own personal financial gain, has stood in the way of every kind of government spending. The governor cut benefits for unemployed, threatened to refuse to implement health care reform, and even diverted nearly $100 million in federal funds intended for foreclosure assistance to business subsidies.

Despite his aversion to spending taxpayer dollars, Deal created the Defense Initiative and hired Washington insider, Will Ball, to lobby Congress against base closures and any defense budget cuts that might affect the state. According to reporting by the Military Times, “details of exactly how the defense initiative will work, and who will serve with it, are still being hashed out.” But in addition to maintaining the military’s presence in Georgia, the governor is also looking to increase the number of defense contractors operating in the state.

Of course, this seems at odds with a political party that has railed against government spending, and claims that job creation can only happen in the private sector. Deal isn’t unique among his colleagues, as many Republicans have embraced the idea that government doesn’t create jobs – except when it does. In 2011 Arizona Sen. John Kyle said that “government spending doesn’t create jobs,” and then in 2012 said that preventing the sequester budget cuts was about trying “to get some economic growth, [and] job creation.”

Among the most strident defenders of the military-industrial complex and a proponent of the idea that government spending does not create jobs is Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon. During a hearing last year the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee seemingly contradicted himself in the same sentence saying that “We don’t spend money on defense to create jobs. But defense cuts are certainly a path to job loss, especially among our high-skilled workforces.” Republicans don’t spend money on defense to create jobs – except when they do.

Photo: Major Gen. Jim Butterworth, Georgia’s Adjutant General, with Gov. Nathan Deal and Chris Cumminskey, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development from Georgia National Guard.