Economy Forever Wars Jake Johnson Military Politics

Up to Half of the $14 Trillion Spent by Pentagon Since 9/11 Has Gone to War Profiteers

A new analysis shows that a "large portion" of Pentagon contracts in recent years have gone to just five companies: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman.
The Pentagon headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The Pentagon headquarters in Washington, D.C. (Touch of Light)

By Jake Johnson / Common Dreams

Up to half of the estimated $14 trillion that the Pentagon has spent in the two decades since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan has gone to private military contractors, with corporate behemoths such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, and General Dynamics hoovering up much of the money.

That’s according to a new paper (pdf) authored by William Hartung—director of the Arms and Security Program at the Center for International Policy—and released Monday by Brown University’s Costs of War Project.

Published just days after the 20th anniversary of the September 11 attacks and two weeks after the last U.S. military plane departed Afghanistan, the paper documents the extent to which the massive post-9/11 surge in Pentagon spending benefited weapon makers, logistics firms, private security contractors, and other corporate interests.

“The magnitude of Pentagon spending in the wake of the 9/11 attacks was remarkable,” Hartung observes. “The increase in U.S. military spending between Fiscal Year 2002 and Fiscal Year 2003 was more than the entire military budget of any other country, including major powers like China, Russia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and France.”

According to Hartung’s analysis, from “one-third to one-half” of the Pentagon’s $14 trillion in spending since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan on October 2001 went to defense contractors, which spend heavily on government lobbying.

“A large portion of these contracts—one-quarter to one-third of all Pentagon contracts in recent years—have gone to just five major corporations: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman,” Hartung writes. “The $75 billion in Pentagon contracts received by Lockheed Martin in fiscal year 2020 is well over one and one-half times the entire budget for the State Department and Agency for International Development for that year, which totaled $44 billion.”

But those five corporate giants are far from the only companies that profited from the increase in U.S. Defense Department outlays following the Afghanistan invasion, which ultimately killed more than 46,000 Afghan civilians. Hartung notes that numerous other firms—including Erik Prince’s since-rebranded Blackwater, the Dick Cheney-tied company Halliburton, and DynCorp—benefited handsomely from the Pentagon spending boom.

“Halliburton’s Pentagon contracts grew more than tenfold from FY2002 to FY2006 on the strength of its contracts to rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure and provide logistical support for U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the new paper reads. “By 2009, over half of DynCorp’s revenues were coming from the Iraq and Afghan wars.

Hartung argues that the Pentagon’s growing reliance on private contractors to carry out U.S. foreign policy in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks “raises multiple questions of accountability, transparency, and effectiveness.”

“This is problematic because privatizing key functions can reduce the U.S. military’s control of activities that occur in war zones while increasing risks of waste, fraud, and abuse,” he writes. “Additionally, that the waging of war is a source of profits can contradict the goal of having the U.S. lead with diplomacy in seeking to resolve conflicts.”

In order to rein in war profiteering and increase government “accountability over private firms involved in conducting or preparing for war,” Hartung recommends several broad policy changes, including:

  • Slashing overall spending on war and military operations overseas;
  • Increasing “the role of diplomacy” in U.S. foreign policy;
  • Implementing more strict regulations and “strengthening the role of inspectors general, auditors, and contracting officers in rooting out corruption”; and
  • Enacting “revolving door reforms” such as “longer cooling off periods between government service and employment in the arms industry, closing loopholes in current laws, and increasing detailed reporting on revolving door employment.”

“Reducing the profits of war ultimately depends on reducing the resort to war in the first place,” Hartung writes. “Likewise, making war less profitable decreases the incentive to go to war. Given the immense financial and human costs of America’s post-9/11 wars—and the negative security consequences generated by many of these conflicts—adopting a new, less militarized foreign policy should be a central goal of the public and policymakers alike.”

14 comments

  1. AND WHO ARE THESE DAVOS

    BILLIONAIRES!
    300 million a day and

    Manchin is crying about debt? I smell

    Fish. Like Joe is getting energy

    Kick backs ! NO GREEN FOR JOE

    JUST BLACK COAL.

  2. That’s a lot of money!! Million, billion, trillion… they’re just common words to us… especially the more innumerate. There are a million seconds in about 116 days. (What I could do with one million dollars!) How long does a trillion seconds last? 317,000 years.
    7 or 14 trillion? That’s a lot of money!

    1. If the US actually managed to spend $2 trillion on their Afghanistan adventure, that amounts to a staggering $3,170 per second. For twenty years in a row.

      Einstein himself couldn’t wrap his head around such numbers…

  3. How wonderful that the USA generously provides its expertise in democracy and freedom to so many other lucky nations.

  4. It is important to emphasize this dangerous process outlined in Hartung’s analysis and released 9/13 by Brown University’ Cost of War Project. These costs must be understood! Events of 9/11/01 plus related anthrax terror fear were the catalyst for this ugly process. The fall of building 7 was a central event 9/11. This skyscraper came down at 5:20 PM that afternoon; 52 stories straight down in 5.4 seconds including 2.25 seconds free-fall (Gravity driven with no resistance from the structure below). There must be near-simultaneous global failure of all 81 steel columns for this to happen. This is controlled demolition. What might this imply?

  5. The revolving door of profits made by keeping the US intrenched in war is sicking. This must stop. Why else did we go into Iraq in the first place? ask Dick Cheney. This type of thievery is blatant stealing of not only US dollars that could be spent on systems like Medicare, Education, etc. , it is immoral stealing of our tax dollars for personal gain. All the while lying to the American people over and over again that it is in the name of democracy.

  6. The US has lost yet another war? So what. The reasons for that whole campaign had little connection, if any, to international political issues. Iraq should have made that clear; nothing to do with 9/11. As for Afghanistan, why be there so long? Especially after the demise of bin Laden. Because Afghanistan is the perfect money pit for corporate greed and private profit; not winning extends multitudinous opportunities for glorious profiteering.

    Whip up a frenzy of righteous patriotism and form an alliance with a hideously distorted American Christianity centered in aggression, xenophobia, and materialism. The marks, a.k.a. taxpayers and victims of the economic draft, will cheer even as their lives are sacrificed and their pockets are emptied. They will not notice how that aforementioned $7 T disappears.

  7. When we were kids, we called certain phrases “commie claptrap”. Y’know, like
    “The capitalists need war to keep their profits up” and “Imperialism is the
    highest form of capitalism”.

    We knew that only fools would believe such garbage.

    Well, the passage of time gives us the chance to revisit the certainties of
    our youth. Perhaps the garbage of those days wasn’t so smelly after all.

      1. The point of the comment is obvious. The above article is all about the massive
        amount of loot going to those who profit from wars of various types – hot, cold,
        proxy, clandestine, against “terror”, etc. – all in the service of imperialism.

        My point is that the propaganda I and others believed in our youth denied the
        now indisputable truth that it really was all about the profits to be extracted from war
        and imperialism, i.e., the “commie claptrap” wasn’t garbage at all. What we were told
        to believe in those days was – and it took a little time for some of us (like me) to
        revise our original take on things (and to correct our original perception of the aroma).

        I was trying to say this in a manner less heavy-handed than what I just wrote.

        DD (b.1951)

      2. Ah, well, I misunderstood. Thought you were just reaffirming that you still don’t believe it, without providing any argument or evidence.

  8. Who is the Moderator? The man behind the curtain?
    Touche’ David Darcanto. We all were and are still lied to in the name of imperialism.

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