Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Representatives are Too Invested in Defense Contractors

Posted by M. C. on August 12, 2022

After Raytheon and L3Harris, the rest of the top ten defense companies donating campaign cash were Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, BAE Systems, General Atomics, Huntington Ingalls Industries, Boeing, and Leidos. These companies lined members’ campaign coffers with millions of dollars in PAC funding.


As Congress considers two monumentally important pieces of legislative business — the annual defense policy bill and a historic reform to congressional ethics rules — it is worth taking some time to consider just how deep the potential for corruption goes in both these areas and how they intersect with one another. In other words, congressional corruption and ethical failings are inextricably linked to the military-industrial-congressional complex — the unhealthy intersection between Congress and the defense sector. This situation calls for serious reforms, and Congress is the only stakeholder that can make that happen.

A Cozy Relationship

There are few examples that better highlight the ethical dysfunction in Congress than the excessively cozy relationship between policymakers and the defense industry. Each year, including this one, members of the House and Senate armed services committees and the House and Senate appropriations committees craft the policy and allocate the hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars that fund the Pentagon. The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is the primary vehicle for defense policy. The accompanying appropriations bill allocates the money to operationalize the policy laid out in the NDAA. To put this in perspective, consider that the defense budget now clocks in at more than $800 billion and the Pentagon allocated $420 billion in contracts in fiscal year 2020 — over half the total defense budget and a contract dollar amount larger than every other federal agency combined.

In light of the scale and scope of defense spending, reasonable observers could be forgiven for assuming there might be some prudential rules in place to prevent corruption when it comes to Congress’s work regarding the defense industry. Unfortunately, there are virtually no such rules. In fact, the current framework around congressional conflicts of interest and campaign finance regarding industry relationships is so permissive as to all but guarantee the perversion of the policymaking process in this area.

There are few, if any, rules in place that restrict or prohibit members of Congress who sit on committees that oversee and legislate defense policy from holding direct personal financial stakes in defense companies, including through the ownership of stock. This means there is nothing stopping members of the House and Senate armed services committees (as well as each chamber’s respective defense subcommittee of the appropriations committee) from directly tying their own personal financial interests to the financial interests of defense contractors, all while passing laws that would steer billions of tax dollars to those very same companies. Again, these contracts total hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

See the rest here

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