Earlier this month, the Pentagon awarded the largest contract in US history to Lockheed Martin, which beat out rivalBoeing in a $200 billion dollar deal to build the next generation of fighter aircraft, the Joint Strike Fighter. Anofficial with Lockheed Martin said "this is the mother of all procurements," involving the building of up to 3,000planes for the military and another 2,000 for sale to US allies around the world.
The announcement came after an unprecedented six-year lobbying campaign by the aerospace giants that enlistedCongress and all branches of the military for a plane that critics say was never needed in the first place.
After September 11 the lobbying included full page spreads in national newspapers paying homage to the armed forcesand TV commercials with female vocalists belting out "America the Beautiful." Asked to explain the ads, aired justweeks before the $200 billion contract was awarded, A Lockheed spokesman said "whatever you think of defensecontractors, we are very patriotic people."
Since losing out on the Joint Strike Fighter, Boeing has dispatched its top executives to lobby Congress and themilitary, arguing that it now needs more Pentagon contracts to survive, including lucrative deals to build militarycargo carriers and replace radar and refueling aircraft. Government watchdogs say that these deals amount totaxpayer gifts that are unneeded at best and illegal at worst.
The battle over the Joint Strike Fighter–and Boeing’s efforts since the deal was given to Lockheed is a primeexample of what one Pentagon official called the "completely politicized process" of doling out massive defensecontracts to a dwindling number of giant corporations, corporations who depend on convincing Congress and the publicthat their profits and US national security are one and the same.
- Chris Hellman, analyst at the Center for Defense Information, an independent military researchorganization.
- Eric Miller, Senior Defense Investigator at the Program on Government Oversight and author of a new report"Heavy Lifting for Boeing: Sweetheart Deal Helps Defense Contractor and Hurts Taxpayers."