(MintPress) – On the sidelines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit, President Barack Obama pressed Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul on a sale that would provide Turkey with U.S.-made drones. Around the same time as the negotiation, it was announced that Iraq had agreed to purchase surveillance drones to protect oil commodities. Have a […]
(MintPress) – On the sidelines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit, President Barack Obama pressed Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul on a sale that would provide Turkey with U.S.-made drones. Around the same time as the negotiation, it was announced that Iraq had agreed to purchase surveillance drones to protect oil commodities. Have a strong foothold on drone technology around the world, the U.S. is looking at the aircraft as a military export to many nations.
In a $15 billion deal with Iraqi government, The ScanEagle drones are part of a package that contains fighter jets, tanks and other vehicles. Iraq has expressed concern over its ability to protect oil facilities in the country, its top export around the world. Also, Iraq uses the Persian Gulf as a route of export, a body of water that has been heavily watched and controlled by Iran, particularly the Strait of Hormuz.
Army Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, head of the U.S. Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, told USA Today that the U.S. is looking to maintain ties with Iraq and that the sale of drones “helps facilitate that strategic relationship.”
Navy officials have said countries, such as Kuwait, Pakistan and the Netherlands, are looking into buying the same drones purchased by Iraq. The Air Force said it has been contacted by Japan and Australia for its Global Hawk drone.
The Obama Administration has looked to military weaponry as a top export option, and last August the president pushed for reform to allow for more exports of weaponry and technology that has remained largely off limits, such as drones.
“While there is still more work to be done, taken together, these reforms will focus our resources on the threats that matter most, and help us work more effectively with our allies in the field,” Obama said in 2010. “They’ll bring transparency and coherence to a field of regulation which has long been lacking both. And by enhancing the competitiveness of our manufacturing and technology sectors, they’ll help us not just increase exports and create jobs, but strengthen our national security as well.”
In a 2011 interview with AOL, defense analyst and former Pentagon international programs official Frank Cevasco said opening a trade route for military weapons and providing help to other nations prevents the U.S. from being a sole contributor of defense compared to its allies.
“If we keep along the current path [partner nations] will be less capable five years from now, leaving the U.S. with the choice go it alone or don’t get involved,” Cevasco said. “There is a substantial risk associated with the U.S. proceeding along a path by itself. The far better approach is to proceed forward as best as we can and encourage our allies to leverage what the U.S. has already developed, but do so in a way that others interpret as treating them as equals not subordinates.”
Seven months after Obama’s overhaul of the export regulations, the U.S. entered into one of the largest military export deals in recent memory, when Saudi Arabia entered into a $60 billion deal with US to purchase 84 Boeing F-15 planes, 70 Apache helicopters and an agreement to repair and update older jets.
What used to average out to $13 billion a year in exports between 1995 and 2005, agreements between the U.S. and other countries have tripled since 2000, and the Department of Defense reported to Congress in 2010 that it had anticipated revenues of $103 billion in military weaponry exports.
Earlier in May it was reported that the defense technology company Northrop Grumman was awarded an $84 million contract from the U.S. Navy. And on top of exclusively supplying the U.S. federal government with IT service, Newport News Shipbuilding, owned and operated by Northrop Grumman, manufactures all U.S. aircraft carriers and super-carriers. The Global Hawk drone being marketed to Japan and Australia, that’s Northrop Grumman too.
But Northrop Grumman isn’t the only player in the game of arms production. Four of the top five military arms producers in the world are located in the United States, with Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics.
The domination of the market between a few very powerful private businesses and the government is something President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about in 1961 in his final speech during a time when the U.S. was in an arms race with the Soviet Union. Eisenhower warned that America’s steep investment in weapons would take away from other areas of the budget, such as social programs and education.
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex,” Eisenhower said. “The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”
According to CNN, the military contracting industry does upwards of 90 percent of its business with the Pentagon, and while manufacturing plants and their headquarters are scattered about the country, they all have offices in Washington DC. Influence within the ranks of the military weapons manufacturers also comes from a military or Pentagon influence.
At Boeing, the head of business development for military aircraft, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Kohler, once was in charge of the Pentagon agency responsible for arms exports. Lockheed Martin CEO Robert Stevens is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and served on an aerospace commission for President George W. Bush.
With the current budgetary constraints and the influence of military weaponry executives, it seems likely that the U.S. will continue to focus on exports now that the Iraq war has seen withdrawal and the conflict in Afghanistan faced renewed pressure for downsizing. Deutsche Bank analyst Myles Walton told CNN Money that investors in the companies are anticipating a 30 percent decline on domestic weapons spending over the course of the next decade, increasing the pressure to make up for the lost revenue through exports.
“We’re at a procurement peak this year,” Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst, said. “There’s no disguising the fact that it’s at best plateauing, and most likely going to soften.”