Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Big mouths for weapons spending are mum on industry backers – Responsible Statecraft

Posted by M. C. on April 4, 2023

Even with appropriations and requests needlessly sky high, think tank experts underwritten by defense firms are calling for more.

AEI does not publicly provide a list of its funders and did not respond to multiple requests for comment about its funding. But the moderator of a public AEI event last year noted that “both Lockheed and Northrop provide philanthropic support to AEI. We are grateful for that support.”

The American Enterprising Institute

Written by
Ben Freeman and Yameen Huq

Earlier this month, President Biden requested the largest defense budget in U.S. history. Even adjusting for inflation, this $842 billion budget — which will likely increase with congressional add-ons and additional spending for the war in Ukraine — could ultimately give the Pentagon more taxpayer money than when the U.S. had more than 100,000 troops on the ground at the height of the Iraq and Afghan conflicts. 

But you’d have no idea that was the case if you read Pentagon contractor funded think tanks’ commentary about the budget, which have been clamoring for even more Pentagon spending, often without disclosing that the beneficiaries of it fund their organizations. 

“For defense, this is a pretty substantial step backwards,” a scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) told The Hill. This amounts to a “$28 billion cut to programs and activities” after you account for a troop pay raise and inflation, an American Enterprise Institute (AEI) expert told Defense News, which added that the AEI expert was pushing for a DOD budget of at least $882 billion. That $882 billion figure is, perhaps coincidentally, the exact amount of Pentagon funding another AEI scholar promoted in a recent op-ed for Breaking Defense.

Unsurprisingly, think tank arguments for increasing Pentagon funding have also found their way into mainstream media outlets. The day before the Biden administration released its fiscal year 2024 budget, the Washington Post published an article bemoaning the defense industry’s limited capacity to “build things to kill people,” as the head of a munitions facility told the Post. The piece cited CSIS research on the defense industry’s struggles to replace stockpiles of the tens of billions of dollars in munitions the U.S. has given Ukraine.

Earlier that same week, the Wall Street Journal ran an article proclaiming “The U.S. Is Not Yet Ready for the Era of ‘Great Power’ Conflict.” As evidence, the author cited a CSIS wargame that simulated a Chinese attack on Taiwan in which “the U.S. side ran out of long-range anti-ship cruise missiles in a week.” That same CSIS study was cited in a New York Times article published last week titled “From Rockets to Ball Bearings, Pentagon Struggles To Feed War Machine.”

What goes unmentioned in any of these articles is that these think tanks clamoring for more defense funding are funded by the defense industry.

CSIS is commendably transparent about its funding and provides a publicly available list of donors on its website. And, that list is filled with defense contractors. In total, 20 different defense contractors provided the organization with a total of at least $2.2 million last year. The top defense sector donor to CSIS was Northrop Grumman, which gave the organization more than $500,000. The firm builds many of the military’s weapons, most notably munitions, the organization’s scholars have been pushing.

A spokesperson for CSIS explained that, “CSIS is an independent non-profit with a diverse funding base and the conclusions of our scholars are theirs alone,” and, “CSIS discloses our donors on our website. We also disclose funders of our research reports in the reports themselves. We do this because we believe our audience should know who supports our work.” Yet, this only applies to research reports with dedicated external funding, the spokesperson explained, not work done through general support funding like the CSIS report on the need for investing in U.S. munitions that has been widely cited in media outlets with no disclosure in the report that the munitions in question are made by the organization’s funders. 

See the rest here

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