The corrupt system that turns American generals into war profiteers

When corruption has become systemic, it no longer gets called corruption.

When America’s decorated military elite believe that retirement means that it is now their turn to line their pockets by profiting from the United States’ profligate arms spending, we are witnessing what the Boston Globe refers to with the blandest of euphemisms: a routine fact of life.

When a country is in dire economic condition, it’s government running a massive deficit and yet it still expands its military spending, we are witnessing the effect of the “disastrous rise of misplaced power” possessed by the military-industrial complex — a danger about which Dwight D. Eisenhower cautioned America, yet his warning went unheeded.

An hour after the official ceremony marking the end of his 35-year career in the Air Force, General Gregory “Speedy’’ Martin returned to his quarters to swap his dress uniform for golf attire. He was ready for his first tee time as a retired four-star general.

But almost as soon as he closed the door that day in 2005 his phone rang. It was an executive at Northrop Grumman, asking if he was interested in working for the manufacturer of the B-2 stealth bomber as a paid consultant. A few weeks later, Martin received another call. This time it was the Pentagon, asking him to join a top-secret Air Force panel studying the future of stealth aircraft technology.

Martin was understandably in demand, having been the general in charge of all Air Force weapons programs, including the B-2, for the previous four years.

He said yes to both offers.

In almost any other realm it would seem a clear conflict of interest — pitting his duty to the US military against the interests of his employer — not to mention a revolving-door sprint from uniformed responsibilities to private paid advocacy.

But this is the Pentagon where, a Globe review has found, such apparent conflicts are a routine fact of life at the lucrative nexus between the defense procurement system, which spends hundreds of billions of dollars a year, and the industry that feasts on those riches. And almost nothing is ever done about it.

The Globe analyzed the career paths of 750 of the highest ranking generals and admirals who retired during the last two decades and found that, for most, moving into what many in Washington call the “rent-a-general’’ business is all but irresistible.

From 2004 through 2008, 80 percent of retiring three- and four-star officers went to work as consultants or defense executives, according to the Globe analysis. That compares with less than 50 percent who followed that path a decade earlier, from 1994 to 1998.

In some years, the move from general staff to industry is a virtual clean sweep. Thirty-four out of 39 three- and four-star generals and admirals who retired in 2007 are now working in defense roles — nearly 90 percent.

And in many cases there is nothing subtle about what the generals have to sell — Martin’s firm is called The Four Star Group, for example. The revolving-door culture of Capitol Hill — where former lawmakers and staffers commonly market their insider knowledge to lobbying firms — is now pervasive at the senior rungs of the military leadership. [Continue reading.]

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4 thoughts on “The corrupt system that turns American generals into war profiteers

  1. Norman

    One thing is clear, the Military feeds the hypocritical mess that is pervasive today in the Government. What really amazes me, is how this whole ball game operates on the presumption that there is no limit to the $$$$$’s that are tapped, wasted, stolen, etc. etc. It proves one thing, that the Government & the minions that inhabit from the Executive through the various departments and the Pentagon/DOD, can be termed traitors to the Country. When they preach the religion of patriotism then turn their backs when they leave the service they attained their training/expertise, then they are no different that all those small time crooks in prison. The Judicial system in the U.S. has just as much soil on its hands, with few exceptions, especially the present makeup of the S.C.O.T.U.S. Witch brings up B.S. about the courts being activists, making/changing laws from the bench, which is a favorite of the Conservative right, just what ia the Roberts Court doing, if not that very thing? Oh yes, I forgot, it’s only when the court stands for the rights of all that it’s activist, but when it benefits the conservative bent, then that’s O.K. One would hope the the Roberts Court will revisit their 5-4 decision giving the business the green light to spend/buy the past election this next session, before the 2012 election rolls around, then the Court will in MHO be no better that the one that gave Hitler a rubber stamp.

  2. Renfro

    I estimate we have two and a half to three years before it all crashes…maybe less.
    There will be another even worse US financial crash, it will take the public 6 months to absorb and react to it and then everything will start breaking down.

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