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Inside the Military-Industrial Complex
Posted on Oct 10, 2007
James Harris and Josh Scheer
Former Assistant Secretary of Defense Philip Coyle knows a thing or two about the “staggering” amounts of money the U.S. funnels into the military-industrial complex, and why it is so difficult to stanch the profiteering.
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James Harris: This is Truthdig. James Harris here again with Josh Scheer. Today we are talking to Philip Coyle, he’s the former assistant secretary of defense, and currently is a senior adviser at the Center for Defense Information. Recently an article was published announcing that UC Berkeley had won a contract to develop defense, a contract worth some $1.6 billion each year. In doing the research for this interview, I found that there was no cap to the trillions of dollars spent on defense. Seeing these astronomic figures, I cannot help but think about the forgotten social programs, the failing education structure. Can you tell me, what do we spend this money on? Where does it go? And are we spending too much?
Philip Coyle: The amount of money that the United States spends on defense is really quite staggering. Over $750 billion a year, if you count everything. Typically, those numbers are not counted. Typically you hear numbers like 450, not 750 or more. But when you count everything, it’s a very large amount of money. And that doesn’t count the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the president’s latest request, the total amount of money, either appropriated or requested for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and all, is now over $800 billion, 808 billion to be exact, and that doesn’t include, that is not included, in the 750 or so that we spend each year on regular defense spending.
Josh Scheer: It’s actually interesting, a lot of people forget that the DOE, and the Veterans Affairs, and a lot of those departments, also get quite a bit of money from the military-industrial complex. And from the president.
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Harris: What are you doing to either defeat this spending mentality or work within the system to change some of these things?
Coyle: Well, it’s very difficult, of course. Some defense programs, some defense procurements, spend money in every single state of the union. One of the displays that the U.S. Congress can get from the Pentagon is where exactly all the money is being spent on each particular program. And so sometimes this means jobs all across the country that makes it very difficult to attack.
Scheer: And the companies do that on purpose. I’ve talked to a lot of people on this whole subject and companies will make, as they say, the F-22 or the B-2 or one of those planes, wingtips, will be made in a state to guarantee jobs and to guarantee votes, right?
Coyle: Yes, they will, and of course once a factory or a plant is established in some city or town or state, the people there don’t want to lose it.
Scheer: Yep. ... I know in the news recently we’ve been trying to sell missile defense again and again, and it happens every year, and you were involved in testing for a number of years. Were the tests ever really positive? Because I only read the negative, and maybe that’s the way I look at the news that comes out, but I want to know what you think and, when you were there, were there positive tests; why do we keep putting money in this program year after year?
Coyle: Well, the United States is spending about $10 billion a year, sometimes 11, but about $10 billion a year on missile defense and has been since President Bush came to office. All in all, since Ronald Reagan gave his famous “Star Wars” speech, the United States has spent over $100 billion on missile defense. And it’s the most difficult thing the Pentagon has ever tried to do. Much more difficult than any jet fighter or ship or tank or what have you. The tests are sometimes successful; for example, the ground-based system that is being deployed in Alaska and California, there have been 12 flight intercept tests in that system and six of them were successful and six failed. But these tests are scripted to improve the chances for success, and so they don’t really represent battlefield conditions, the fog of war so to speak, all of the uncertainties that you would have in an actual missile fight, in battle.
Scheer: So basically they’re giving it a failing grade, 50 percent, in optimal conditions?
Coyle: Yes, I think that is fair. There’s nothing wrong with these tests; they need to do them of course if they are ever going to try to make the system be effective. But there is just—they don’t capture all of the realism of war. Remember now that what we’re talking about is nuclear weapons being launched towards the United States and perhaps some of them get through and go off, so talk about the fog of war would be hard to imagine.
Scheer: I remember, and this was many years ago, maybe 5-6 years ago, a lecture given at Stanford by an atomic scientist that the missile systems that they had then, and that they had when they were working on them during the “Star Wars” program, that missiles fired from subs, or from a dirty bomb that would be brought from a city—how, what country, besides say North Korea, could fire a missile, and how much do we have to fear from a dirty bomb that these missile systems wouldn’t work on.
Coyle: Well, currently the only countries that have missiles that can reach the United States are Russia and China. And neither one of those countries is an enemy of the United States today. People worry very much about Iraq, excuse me, I beg our pardon, about Iran and North Korea.
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