• It’s really long, so I won’t be surprised if I don’t get any responses for a while. If you do finish and don’t get terribly bored - thanks. 🙂
    Oh, most of my info was taken from one book, unfortunately. It’s called Fortress America by William Greider. It was from 1999 I believe, and it was the only book I could use facts from cuz my teacher put a 15-year limit on the age of the information.

    The disarmament debate began with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. “The shock of Pearl Harbor left a political conviction that the United States must never be caught flatfooted again.”1 At the end of World War II, the race began in earnest. On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. It signaled the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War. While the world was trying to solve its problems by calm diplomatic negotiations, each country was trying to ensure its own security by developing weapons – nuclear or otherwise. In the United States of America, it began a series of changes in politics and in the economy, and it had a serious effect on the people of America. The Gulf War in 1990 gave all sides – the politicians, the Pentagon, and the weapons industry (collectively called the “Iron Triangle”2) – more justification for manufacturing arms. However, after the end of the Gulf War and the dissolution of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR), the United States never demobilized its troops. Disarming the country seemed to be the obvious result, but the “Iron Triangle” insisted that the United States needed to stay prepared and that countless people would suddenly be unemployed. Next, on September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center Towers in New York were attacked, and a “war on terrorism” ensued. The question became, “Which side of the debate was justified by this? Would the attack have been prevented by demobilization and disarmament, or did staying prepared make the United States more capable of its current actions?”
    The Cold War era was known especially for its worldwide arms race. The United States was wary of the threat the USSR posed to it. The USSR was actively involved in developing new technology and weapons for its use, and the United States was not going to let itself be caught unaware. The Pentagon contracted designers for new weapons and technology during the Cold War, and many of the design ideas from that time have been newly produced, including the F-22 Fighting Falcon and the coming Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). “The F-22 was conceived and designed in the 1980s to meet the Soviet threat that Pentagon planners projected for the mid-1990s. And so it will, despite the awkward fact that the Soviet Union no longer exists.”3 The arms race was justified in the Americans’ minds as necessary for their well-being. On the other hand, after the fall of the USSR in 1991, the United States’ arms manufacturers did not reduce spending on or production of weapons even though the Pentagon cut back on its purchases of new arms. Instead, the arms industries began exporting these weapons with the United States government’s permission. Their justification was that they are selling them only to “friendly” countries, and if they do not sell, it someone else will.
    Bob Paulson gives a concise summary of the industry rationale: ‘If we don’t sell to them, will the French? Yes. If they buy our weapons, will we exercise more control over them? Possibly. Are we putting machine guns in the hands of some savages? Perhaps. But someone will if we don’t.’4

    At the same time, many manufacturers found that they could no longer maintain their business, so they merged with other companies. These larger companies sold as many of their munitions as they could to other countries, including the F-16. Since they sold nearly up-to-date weaponry, they went to the Pentagon to persuade them to hire more weapons designers and buy more technologically advanced ordnance. With the help of these businesses, the United States, essentially, entered an arms race with itself [footnote as Greider’s idea]. Michael Oden confirmed this fact,
    ‘A Lockheed Martin official recently testified that the U.S. has to make a multibillion-dollar commitment to the F-22 to combat aircraft such as the U.S.-made F-15 and F-16….This argument suggests that, with the fall of the Soviet Union, we are effectively engaging in an arms race with ourselves.’5

    In addition, other countries wondered what possible motivation the United States had to build more weapons when it was already the “superpower” of ordnance technology. These countries became increasingly more nervous and felt that they must increase their own supplies of weapons. This was evidenced when India launched a test of its nuclear bomb in 1998. Seeing this as a threat to it, Pakistan launched its own nuclear bomb “test.” In order to find out how Pakistan, a non-friendly country, had obtained this sort of weaponry, one needed only to look toward China. Of course, since the admittance of China into the United States’ good graces, it had been receiving some weapons aid from the United States. The arms industry did not take responsibility. The spending of foreign countries on weapons since 1992 has increased more than their own economies. For example, “defense spending by Latin American nations has increased by 35 percent…while their economies have grown by 22 percent.”6 Obviously, the arms race helped the United States and its citizens through the hard times of the Cold and Gulf Wars, but the degree of its usefulness diminished.
    Maintaining arms was economically advantageous for several reasons. During World War II, the United States built countless numbers of arms manufacturing plants for the arms industry, and it did not charge rent on any of the buildings because “the contractor would simply add that rental cost to the price for new planes.”7 This kept costs for the weapons down, meaning that the Pentagon could get more for the same amount without terribly overspending its budget. As a result of the increased manufacturing, many new jobs were created. The production of arms also gave America’s economy enough of a boost to take it out of the Great Depression. In fact, the new weapons production increased America’s economy by seventy-five percent.8 Jobs were created by the thousands. For example, Air Force Plant Four at Fort Hood, Texas, was built five months after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. It had “thirty thousand employees at peak production”9 during World War II. This peak was surpassed in the 1980s during the Reagan administration when it increased to thirty-one thousand employees.10
    Unfortunately, these government-owned plants do not pay rent when there is not a war to fund. After World War II, the government bought “fewer weapons, [and it] pays much more for each one.”11 At the same time, the companies that used the plants tried to keep them at full capacity while there is not as much to produce, and the government paid. This becomes a waste of money due to a lack of efficiency. Bob Paulson, a defense industry consultant, summarized this basic problem. Paulson said,

    ‘The CEO at Lockheed Martin needs to build a new fighter plane. He’s got all of these factories, and none of them is full. So where does he put the work? Ideally, ignoring the politics, the CEO would like to put all of the work in one or two of those factories and close the others so that, over time, he will wind up with 70-80 percent utilization and save a lot of money.’12

    Politicians would no longer support “LockMartin” though because it would be taking jobs from their constituents. Paulson further stated, “ ‘…Lockheed Martin will have to put the bulk of the work in one place or the other. That means they’ve got to tell one of those delegations – Texas or Georgia – the bad news pretty soon.’ ”13 The author of Fortress America, William Greider, declared, “If LockMartin does find a way to keep both Texas and Georgia happy, the rest of the country must find a way to pay for it.”14 Taxpayers paid for the wasteful spending of the “Iron Triangle.”
    In 1991, the USSR dissolved, so many of the arms producers left the business or merged with larger contractors. Employment was reduced by forty percent.15 General Dynamics, operator of Air Force Plant Four, sold its business to Lockheed. Lockheed merged with Martin Marietta two years later and became Lockheed Martin.16 After all the merges, the United States was left with three major contracting firms: Lockheed Martin (“LockMartin”), “McBoeing”, and RayHughes (or HughesRay). Each makes $22 billion, $15 billion, and $11 billion, respectively. A few smaller firms exist, but the nearest competitor made almost $8 billion less than RayHughes. They made this money by working together on government deals. Each contractor had its “turn” making something for the Pentagon, depending on which one is located in the most strategic political state. The contractors also made different components of the same thing. For example, “LockMartin” owned thirty-three percent of Air Force Plant Four’s F-22 airframe manufacturing, but when General Dynamics sold Air Force Plant Four to Lockheed Martin, their share was augmented by another thirty-three percent. McBoeing owned another thirty-three percent, and RayHughes manufactures the F-22 radar. In essence, the three firms rid themselves of major competition, even amongst themselves. Consequently, the Pentagon had to pay more money for the same weapon. Jacques S. Gansler, former vice president of The Applied Science Corporation (TASC), commented, “ ‘The cost per plane will rise two to one over past decades as this process continues.’ ”17
    Obviously, these three sections of the “Iron Triangle” played against each other, but the Pentagon seemed to take the greatest hits. While the politicians and the industries were trying to please each other, the cost for weapons was steadily increasing, and the budget of the Pentagon stayed the same. The politicians saw no reason to increase it. The responsibility did not lie solely with Congress either. “…The Pentagon and Congress …declined to cancel any major weapons systems…despite rising costs and dwindling orders.”18 Redundancy became another problem because the Pentagon also wanted to be “prepared to fight two major regional wars at once.”19 Fort Hood is America’s largest military base with about 43,000 people, “forty percent of the U.S. Army’s combat power”20, and almost 200,000 acres of empty prairie reserved for weapons tests, war games, etc. The “forty percent combat power” included the M-1 Abrams main battle tank that was instrumental in the defeat of Iraq in the Gulf War. These tanks were “fully upgraded with the latest, most versatile electronics…,”21 although it was unnecessary, and they were renamed M-1A2 Abrams. No other country in the world had the technology used on the M-1 Abrams, but the Pentagon still ordered upgrades. It could have saved that technology for later, but Congress and the Pentagon gave the weapons makers permission to export the weapons. It was then necessary for America to keep ahead of her own technology. Hence, the arms race against herself. Fort Hood also had High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV or “Humvees”), Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTTs or “Hemets”), and Heavy Equipment Transporter Systems (HETS). The HETS and “Hemets” support the M-1 Abrams tanks on the battlefield. The HETS also transport the M-1A2 Abrams because as Sergeant Rolan notes, “ ‘Its ridiculously expensive to move these things…’ ”22 These tanks used almost two gallons of fuel per mile, and if totaled with repair bills, the M-1A2 Abrams cost $147 per mile to operate (p. 8). The Pentagon could have paid these bills more easily if it had not bothered with the upgrade. In addition, the Pentagon found a very destructive way to be rid of their old tanks. They gave them to museums and some “friendly nations”23 free or drastically discounted. They even “dumped one hundred old Sherman M-60s into Mobile Bay off the Alabama coast to form artificial reefs for fish in the Gulf of Mexico.”24 The Pentagon spent billions of dollars in the 1980s to modernize the Army’s equipment, and in the 1990s they gave away older models of virtually the same things. The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) conducted a study of this in 1997. Lora Lumpe and Paul F. Pineo of the FAS said, “ ‘The services appear to be giving away still useful equipment in order to justify procurement of new weaponry.’ ”25 The Navy and Air Force wasted similar amounts of money for the same reason – redundancy. The F-15 had “no peer anywhere in the world,”26 but the Pentagon said it was obsolete. “LockMartin” was contracted to produce the new F-22s, which cost $161 million each. The Air Force ordered about 438 for a total of around $70 billion. The Navy contracted “McBoeing” for an $80 billion commitment to buy 1,000 F/A-18 E/F fighter-bombers. The Army spent $45 billion to obtain 1,292 new Commanche armed reconnaissance helicopters, and these three branches split the $76 billion tab for precision-guided bombs. The armed services promised to buy 2,978 JSFs, set to be produced no earlier than the year 2008. The total expenditures exceeded $300 billion27, after the defense budget was reduced to $250 billion.28 The Secretary of Defense under the Clinton administration, William Cohen, called for a reduction in spending. The Air Force’s order was cut to 339 F-22s, and the Navy’s order was cut far below its original 1,000 F/A-18 E/Fs. That was not enough, so the Air Force, for instance, cut twenty-five or thirty thousand service men and women.29
    An advantage of keeping weapons was its benefits to people. Thousands of people had jobs, and many barriers between African-Americans and Caucasians collapsed. It gave opportunities for people to better their situations in life. Seaman Tom Mullikin was stationed on the USS Arleigh Burke. He said, “ ‘I was working a dead-end factory job back home, cutting fabric for car seats. Now I’m here forever, at least for the next couple of years.’ ”30 Petty Officer Ramirez of the USS Arleigh Burke joined the Navy at seventeen years of age. His goal was to obtain an education, and the Navy did that for him. It gave him another goal as well. “ ‘I’m putting in for officer training…Number one I want an education. Number two, it’s like payback time. The Navy did for me. I’m going to do for the Navy…I’m going to do good work while I’m here.’ ”31 The “Iron Triangle” forced many people like Petty Officer Ramirez and Seaman Mullikin out of their positions because of overspending. Overspending was not the only problem. America’s near-permanent state of mobilization added to the complex problem. Overspending did not allow for enough troops for the mobilization, so many of the same people went overseas repeatedly for extended stays. In addition, the men and women in the armed services made barely enough money to support themselves and their families. Colonel Schoel told Greider, “ ‘I had a soldier in here in this office, married with three kids, who figured out that if he rejected his military subsistence allowance, he qualified for food stamps and he came out dollars ahead. He decided not to do it. Too proud.’ ”32 The troops spouses said, “ ‘Honey, this is no way to live.’ ”33 Many of the marriages dissolved. Sergeant Brooks of the Air Force told Greider after seeing some old friends, “ ‘What’s kind of sad is all three of those guys have been divorced, and now it looks like I’m headed the same way.’ ”34 Suicide followed some of these situations. “Since 1990, suicide has been the second leading cause of death for active-duty Air Force members,”35 an increase of sixty-seven percent.36 The Ninety-ninth Medical Group released this statistic in 1997. They further declared,
    ‘The suicide rate among members between ages twenty and twenty-nine has increased drastically….The most common cause for suicide is difficulty in a relationship (breakup, divorce, or separation) or family problems…Difficulties at work are the second most common cause….Enlisted personnel are more likely to commit suicide….Most suicides occur during the summer in conjunction with permanent change-of-station moves or family separation.’37

    The men and women who work at the factories making fighter jets and other weapons were worried about their jobs. Howard Story, an F-16 forward section inspector at Fort Hood, said, “ ‘I’m nervous, currently. Unless we get some new orders, I’m out of here in June-July 1998…But even if we get orders today, we’re looking at layoffs. I’m out of here, regardless.’ ”38 Story also faced a drastic pay reduction. When he lost his job, he was able to find another one, but that was not his problem. “ ‘You can find seven- and eight-dollar jobs all day long,’ he shrugs. ‘It’s high-level jobs you can’t get.’ ”39 The politicians seemed to achieve their goal of obtaining jobs for constituents for a time. It did not last though, and they did not have the foresight to prevent unemployment rates from escalating due to the layoffs.
    Politics played a major role in the matter of disarmament, though its discussion was considered taboo. Initially, politics helped America arm by allotting money to the budget of the Pentagon in order to have more arms constructed. They also rallied their constituents in support of World War II after isolationism was no longer an option. Eventually, politicians maneuvered to have defense industry branches built in their own states. These businesses did not downsize their workforces because they did not want important politicians to withdraw their support. This contributed to the inefficiency and wastefulness. Some politicians claimed to be making changes when their revisions really did not do much good. Former Defense Secretary Cohen was such a politician. He made a few minor changes “but did not change the basic force structure of the armed services or cancel any of the major new weapons systems in the pipeline.”40 Meanwhile, Michael G. Vickers, “director of strategic studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments,”41 decided to find an alternative method. He brought together some “young colonels and other midlevel officers”42 and asked them to think of a way to reduce spending. The representatives of the armed services made significant reductions in the existing forces and purchases. The planned to use the money they saved for “serious research and development for future weapons.”43 The Army said it could “cut three of its ten divisions and cancel plans for a self-propelled howitzer.”44 The Navy said it could cancel the “construction of a new carrier and [demobilize] three carrier battle groups.”45 The Air Force said it “could drop six fighter wings, retire the B-1 bomber, and cancel the Joint Strike Fighter.”46 A few politicians wanted to make similar changes, including Senator John McCain of Arizona. McCain commented, “ ‘You start talking about national defense or foreign policy, the lines don’t light up. Talk about Medicaid, Social Security, IRS, taxes – bang! – they all want to be heard.’ ”47 McCain wanted to eliminate the Pentagon’s two-wars-simultaneously strategy, as well as canceling orders on all new weapons systems except the F-18 E/F for the Navy. “ ‘One thing, I think, is obvious,’ the senator [said]. ‘You cannot have all three weapons systems move forward….you’re going to consume two-thirds of the defense procurement budget just on tactical aircraft.’ ”48 He also said the Navy should “give up its ambitious plans to build a new class of attack submarines,”49 and that the Army should shrink the size of its ground forces.
    In conclusion, keeping weapons was a good thing. It enabled America to react promptly and powerfully after the World Trade Center was attacked. Wasteful spending and redundancy, however, negated many of the benefits. It became more useful to cut down on weapons projects, but the “Iron Triangle” refused to face the issue. Instead, they began an arms race against themselves by trying to stay ahead of the technology they sold to other countries. One of Bob Paulson’s clients described Congress as “ ‘ ‘the self-licking ice cream cone.’ ’ ”50 President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against the “ ‘military-industrial complex.’ ”51 The “Iron Triangle” promoted their interests doggedly, and their plan backfired. Instead of helping people, it started to harm them in their daily lives. Instead of boosting the economy, after a while it fed upon itself until it was overspending, increasing an already high national debt. After my research, I decided that neither side was inarguably justified by the attacks on September 11, 2001. The extreme side in favor of disarmament would have America destroy almost all weapons. The equally extreme side against disarmament would continue the path toward the destruction of the American economy through wastefulness and inefficiency. A compromise is needed. The government should not spend so much on weapons it does not need, and the defense industries should not sell up-to-date American ordnance technology to other countries. The politicians need to stop using it to promote their own immediate interests because in the long-run it will only hurt everyone. This is a fundamentally simple concept that will, inevitably, become complex as more self-seeking people from all sides of the “Iron Triangle” are involved.

    btw, i do realize that many of my ideas are naive. what can i say? i’ll learn and become cynical like the rest of you in a few years. 😉

  • Very nice paper, I actually read the entire thing. 😛

    However, I couldn’t tell if you were taking a position on this issue, or if you were simply stating the facts?

  • Thanks. And you weren’t bored?

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