The Secretary of Defense is supposed to be a civilian. That is to ensure civilian control over the military. He is also supposed to work on behalf of the American people – not the military-industrial complex.
Nevertheless, our current Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, is a retired Army general who needed a waiver just to take the post. He is also a former senior executive with Raytheon – one of the world’s biggest defense contractors and a major supplier of weapons systems to the Pentagon.
Austin joined the board of United Technologies Corporation, which owned Pratt & Whitney when he retired from the Army in 2016. He became a director of Raytheon after it acquired United Technologies in April 2020.
You might think this sounds like a massive conflict of interest and a very bad idea. You would be right on both counts. Having Austin as Secretary of Defense effectively makes a mockery of all the supposed ethical restrictions in place. Austin has assured us that he will not intervene on behalf of Raytheon in the awarding of contracts. He has also, however, assured us that he reserves the right to request an exception to this policy when and if he so desires.
Such an exception would be granted by the ethics office in the Pentagon. That office works for Austin. Presumably, that means the chances he would get an exception to his own policy – if he requests one – is high.
No word on how or if we will know when such an exception has been granted either.
- Last week, the U.S. Air Force awarded Raytheon a $2 billion contract to develop new air-launched cruise missiles. These missiles would be used by American bombers. The contract in question runs through 2027.
- On February 1, 2021, Raytheon received a $290,704,534 contract from the Pentagon to produce equipment for maintenance facilities and provide services in support of the F-35 fighter bomber.
- On February 26, 2021, Raytheon was awarded an $18,662,845 contract to provide support services for the Javelin anti-tank weapons system.
- On the same day, Raytheon was awarded a $32,853,210 contract for autonomous swarm strike loitering munitions, also known as “suicide drones,”.
- On March 23,, 2021 Raytheon received a $63,301,453 contract for repair of the APG G5-73 all weather-sensor radar system, which is operational in the U.S. Navy’s F-18 fighter jet, and another $10,246,288 contract for repair of military jet engines.
- On March 26, 2021, Raytheon was awarded another huge contract valued at $518,443,821 to produce advanced air-to-air missiles for the Air Force.
- Then on March 30, 2021, Raytheon was given a $130 million contract for upgrades to Navy missile systems.
- The next day, Raytheon won two more contracts worth a total of $138 million.
- On April 30, 2021, Raytheon was awarded a $234,012,036 contract for work on GPS systems for the Air Force.
- The same day Raytheon was awarded a $212,701,232 contract for work on the StormBreaker smart bomb system.
- In June, Raytheon was awarded a contract for $2,271,181,543 under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
- Earlier this month Raytheon won a $172 million dollar contract for work on Navy electronic warfare aircraft.
All the information above is representative only. It is not intended to be anything close to an exhaustive review of all the contracts Raytheon has been granted since Austin took over. The point is simply this. The entire idea that Lloyd Austin can run the Pentagon and keep himself clear of entanglement with Raytheon is ludicrous.
Every component of the Department of Defense and many of our foreign allies are working with Raytheon every day. Contracts in the billions of dollars are awarded to Raytheon routinely and the items these contractor supplies are amongst the most important strategic purchases we make. The nuclear-capable air-launched cruise missile referenced above is a prime example.
This cruise missile is a critical element in the modernization of our nuclear arsenal. Its capabilities are central to our national defense. There is literally no way on Earth that the decision to award Raytheon this contract could possibly have been made and not have involved the Secretary of Defense. Any suggestion to the contrary is absurd.
That does not necessarily mean Austin made a bad choice. Perhaps Raytheon was the company that should have been chosen. The point is, though, we will never know. Instead of being able to rest assured that the system is devoid of conflicts of interest, we are left to hope that despite the obvious conflicts of interest the right decision was made.
For the record, Raytheon donated $506,424 to Joe Biden’s campaign. It also paid Lloyd Austin $1.7 million dollars only months ago when he cashed out his stock in the company and took over as Secretary of Defense.
None of that makes it any easier to accept that Lloyd Austin is acting in our best interests and not that of his former business partners at Raytheon.
(Editor’s Note: This article was published on July 24, 2021 at 1pm. Due to a software glitch when scheduling publishing it reads July 23, at 1135…)