Christian Sorensen: War Industry Muster–Why Work for the War Industry? + Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab is a Part of the War Industry

Starting the protest against US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.

Image by Fibonacci Blue via Flickr

by Christian Sorensen
Writer, Dandelion Salad
June 18, 2019

C.P. Sorensen on Jun 13, 2019

Welcome to the War Industry Muster. In this episode we analyze how people justify working for the U.S. war industry.

Transcript

Welcome to the War Industry Muster. In this episode we analyze how people justify working for the U.S. war industry.

The war industry is comprised of the corporations and academic institutions that develop, market, and sell goods and services to the U.S Department of War and allied regimes around the world.

Hundreds of thousands of people are cogs in the U.S. war industry. These people occupy many jobs within the U.S. war industry, including academics, analysts, armed mercenaries, astrophysicists, engineers, lawyers, lobbyists, linguists, mathematicians, public relations specialists, factory workers, technicians, and administrative assistants.

From academics to engineers to analysts to administrative assistants, how do people justify working for the war industry?

Financials. War is profitable to many people. An average “contractor” (a.k.a. mercenary) position within the war industry—say, working for Lockheed Martin or SAIC—can easily bring in a six-figure salary. The psychopaths in leadership positions within the war industry (e.g. Marillyn Hewson at Lockheed Martin, Phebe Novakovic at General Dynamics, Thomas Kennedy at Raytheon) make over $20 million per year.

Distancing. The academic at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who works on intercontinental ballistic missiles justifies her work along the lines of, “Well it’s not me pushing the button. Surely, there are professionals who are in charge of this weaponry.” That’s distancing. Distancing comes in two main forms: military and policy. Lockheed Martin’s Director of Communications once said, “The missile has nothing to do with the manufacturer… Lockheed Martin was not the one that was there, firing the missile” (see: Robert Fisk. “Is This Some Kind of Crusade?” The Independent. 18 May 1997). That distancing puts the onus on the military. The cog in the war industry rationalizes thusly: “I might disagree with the wars, but I’m not the one who makes policy. I’m just doing my job.” That distancing puts the onus on policy. Those who resort to policy distancing focus on their own daily, incremental tasks, blocking out all the cumulative consequences.

Traditional patriotism. Traditional patriotism rallies a person around the flag, and not questioning those in authority. Traditional patriotism often involves spouting phrases like “support the troops,” a clever slogan through which Corporate America and the D.C. regime throw a blanket of patriotism over the underlying issue: supporting the wars. War typically involves working classes of one country being tricked into fighting the working class of another country, or, as in the cases of Vietnam and Afghanistan, the peasantry of another country. Traditional patriotism has been very effective in getting blue-collar workers to line up in favor of war. True patriotism, however, involves questioning government, making government accountable to the people, and changing government when it is polluted and corrupt.

For the troops. Some people justify working for the war industry by saying they do it for the troops. A Lockheed Martin technician who works on a product that is placed on Boeing AH-64 “Apache” helicopters to target humans, vehicles, and buildings stated, “One of the things that tells me that we have an impact… is when [the soldiers] come back in after re-deployment [a euphemism for returning to the U.S.] they tell how they were so happy to see the Apache come over the horizon when they needed it the most. And once they see that help’s on the way, then everything’s okay. That’s the true measure of success.” (see: “Apache Fire Control: Performance Based Logistics (PBL),” 15 March 2018: 4:31) Jeffrey Stern of The New York Times describes how one machinist at Raytheon’s Tucson missile factory rationalizes his role:

“He described at first a line of reasoning that politicians use too: that better precision-guided weapons help countries avoid hurting anyone they’re not trying to. For him, though, the thing that he said made him most proud about working at Raytheon was helping to keep American servicemen and women safe. The company makes a point of hiring veterans with combat injuries, which reminds him of whom he’s working for and why. He feels it when he sees the gigantic photos of service members that the company hangs in the most prominent parts of the plant. The photos, he explained, are of relatives of Raytheon workers. When he’s at work, the notion of helping American servicemen and women is not abstract. It’s almost tactile.” (see: “From Arizona to Yemen: The Journey of an American Bomb.” The New York Times. 11 Dec 2018)

Well played, Raytheon.

Delusion and moral bankruptcy. Industry lobbyists are a good example of this. They make a lot of money pressuring U.S. Congress. Lobbyists repackage war and death as “defense” and “jobs.” Sometimes they do this by promoting the cult of “precision” and “state-of-the-art” technology. 24/7 they circle Capitol Hill like plague-filled vultures. The lobbyist is deluded beyond rescue. If they don’t buy the deceit and misrepresentation dished out by the brands they’re pitching, then the money does it for them. Congress, in turn, promotes war for the mainstream, jumbled, working class that is too busy suffocating under the corporate boot to discern or confront the bigger exploitative picture.

Consequences. A small minority within the war industry recognizes the gravity of the situation, but is afraid of the consequences of doing the right thing. Violence and social isolation loom when just a few individuals here and there push back against the machinery of war. The leaker is jailed, the minor whistleblower demoted, the demonstrator gassed and beaten, and the conscientious hacker is given a decade in prison. When these few people push back, the D.C. regime and its industrial sponsors crush them. When the people push back, united and together, the D.C. regime wilts and crumbles.

Lacking courage. Many smart people, blissfully comfortable with the steady paycheck and creature comforts that being part of the war industry brings, lack the courage to do the right thing. Consider the director on the board of a war corporation in San Diego, California. The man’s resume is impressive: PhD in international relations from Georgetown University; over 2,000 flight hours on industry aircraft, including the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper; awards from the war industry and the Department of War; but not one ounce of courage. His participation in the war industry leads directly to the deaths of innocents abroad and perpetuates war.

Authority. Those in authority include the key members of the D.C. regime (members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, for example), the leadership of war corporations, and the banksters of Wall Street. Those in authority know exactly what they’re doing. They don’t have to think much about the consequences of their work: the bodies piling up in Africa and the Middle East, the U.S. troops maimed, the families destroyed. They don’t have to think about this because they have all the means of violence on their side: the police, the surveillance state, the prison system, the Armed Forces. They have money and all the awards that society confers upon titans of industry. Professor David Graeber has pointed out that in structural inequalities (like the war machine) the people on top are not obligated to put in the mental labor to try to understand the perspective of the lower classes or those they oppress. Those on the receiving end of D.C.’s violence, however, do not have this luxury.

A flexible, powerful recipe (including financials, distancing, patriotism, delusion, and authority) helps people justify working in the war industry.

Everyone who works in the war industry, from the humblest welder to the haughtiest executive, shares one common trait: the career plan. Looking forward to the next promotion, bullet point on the CV, award, pat on the back—and failing to acknowledge the big picture. The big picture is that endless war exists for endless profit. Violence, hierarchy, compartmentalization, and chain of command enforce this status quo.

War. Is. A. Racket.

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab — War Industry Muster, Episode 8

C.P. Sorensen on Apr 18, 2019

The U.S. war industry is comprised of the corporations and academic institutions that develop, market, and sell weapons of war and related goods & services to the Pentagon and allied regimes.

In this episode we analyze some of the goods and services that Johns Hopkins University sells to the U.S. Department of War.

Transcript

Welcome to the War Industry Muster.

In this episode we analyze Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL).

We know that U.S. academia plays a key role in supporting the U.S. Department of War. Traditionally, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology received the most public funding and contracts from the War Department, but others like Georgia Tech and Johns Hopkins have in recent years come to rival MIT in terms of number of contracts received.

Academia is a key part of the U.S. war industry (the corporate entities that develop, market, and sell goods and services to the U.S Department of War and allied regimes).

Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory is a part of the war industry. The lab is located in Laurel, Maryland, equidistant between Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.

The corridor between Baltimore and D.C. is home to many war corporations: Major war corporations like Booz Allen Hamilton and Northrop Grumman have facilities in Linthicum, Maryland; a smaller war corporation in Jessup, Maryland, known as LGS Innovations develops drones for U.S. Special Operations Command; and Lockheed Martin’s headquarters are in Bethesda, just north of Washington, D.C.

Fort Meade, home to the National Security Agency, is located in the Baltimore-D.C. corridor. Many war corporations have offices outside NSA’s gates and in business parks off routes 295 and 32. NSA is one of many government agencies captured by war corporations. The major corporations selling to NSA include Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI, General Dynamics, Harris, Leidos (pronounced: lie-dos), L3, ManTech, PAE, and SAIC. These war corporations perform the vast bulk of NSA’s workload.

So, Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory is smack dab in the middle of the D.C.-Baltimore corridor in Laurel, Maryland.

What does this Lab do on behalf of the War Department?

Johns Hopkins regularly gets money from the War Department for the following work:

Providing assessments & alternatives of offensive capabilities within the domains of air, land, sea, space & cyberspace, missions & warfare areas that asymmetrically mitigate threat effectiveness, impose cost, and/or create ambiguity in adversary decision-making.

Seven contracts for this work have been issued at regular intervals [15 March 2017, 22 Sept 2017, 7 Feb 2018, 9 July 2018, 26 Sept 2018; 9 Jan 2019; 14 Feb 2019] over the last two years.

Johns Hopkins works on this effort in and around Washington, D.C., including the municipalities of Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, according to the contract announcements.

These contracts have totaled: $72,799,000. What would you do with this money?

What does it mean to advise the U.S. Department of War in asymmetrically mitigating threat effectiveness, imposing cost, and creating ambiguity in adversary decision-making?

I contacted Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab to get some clarification on this. They have not responded to my inquiries.

Let’s break it down…

It means that Johns Hopkins is helping the War Department develop technologies that put the declared enemies of the D.C. regime at a disadvantage. This disadvantage can occur across different battlefields, both declared and undeclared, as the contract phrasing indicates.

The official enemies list of the D.C. regime is quite lengthy. It ranges from

  • sub-state and non-state groups like the FARC [las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia] and the Afghan Taliban;
  • to state and social welfare providers like Hezbollah in Lebanon;
  • to great powers like Moscow and Beijing.

It is safe to presume that Johns Hopkins is helping to develop technology to harm or defeat such official enemies. As a university with an international outlook, surely Johns Hopkins has students from Afghanistan, Colombia, the People’s Republic of China, Lebanon, or Russia. What does Johns Hopkins faculty and staff and student body have to say about this conflict of interest? Johns Hopkins’ mission statement says it aims to “bring the benefits of discovery to the world.” How can Johns Hopkins University claim to benefit the world while helping the War Department harm or prepare to harm the foremost nations and peoples of the world?

For greater context, let’s analyze a few more contracts that Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab has with the U.S. Department of War.

Johns Hopkins has worked on scientific and technical problems for U.S. Special Operations Command, as a 3 March 2015 contract announcement indicates. The D.C. regime and posh generals and admirals sitting in the Pentagon have used and abused U.S. Special Operations Command, sending SEALs, Army Special Forces, Air Force pararescue, and Marine special operators across the globe on all sorts of imperial errands for the last eighteen years.

The D.C. regime and Pentagon flag officers are able to do this because the enlisted ranks of Special Operations Command lack an understanding of their class interests. If the enlisted ranks within Special Operations Command, which are drawn largely from the lower and lower-middle classes in the U.S., were aware that powerful corporations and the upper class of U.S. society use soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines as pawns, then the enlisted ranks would think twice before agreeing to deploy to multiple warzones again and again. (The enlisted ranks self-select in this manner. Those who have a strong grasp of history, and are educated in the criminality of the D.C. regime, or grew up with class consciousness do not typically enlist in the military.)

The D.C. regime is also able to lean heavily on special operations forces because of the strong sense of traditional patriotism inculcated within the body politic of the United States and among the U.S. Armed Forces. This traditional patriotism obligates those within military units, and special operations pawns in particular, to not ask questions and to always do what Uncle Sam says. (Even if, as in the case of U.S. military operations, Uncle Sam is bought and paid for by Big Oil, war corporations, and powerful lobbies.) True patriotism, on the other hand, involves questioning authority and getting rid of the authorities that don’t take care of the people.

For their part, the elite pawns of U.S. Special Operations Command have committed countless atrocities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere during the last eighteen years of endless war. This is a tragedy.

The administration of Johns Hopkins University, in aiding SOCOM and D.C.’s endless wars, is opening itself up to criminal prosecution. If and when the goods and services the University sells to the War Department are found abetting war crimes, the administration of JHU past and present will answer.

Johns Hopkins also helps the War Department militarize space.

JHU APL has received a lot of money from the War Department to work on research & development for the U.S. Army’s Space & Missile Defense Command at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. Every major war corporation has a presence on Redstone Arsenal. Redstone is where war corporations get together to develop and test rocketry, missiles, novel propulsion, new aerodynamic designs, and space technology. Johns Hopkins is also extremely close with the Space & Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base. This Center is the premier focal point through which U.S. war corporations militarize space. In related contracts, Johns Hopkins works with the Air Force Research Lab to develop computer software enhancing the War Department’s abilities to dominate space, including the development of satellite navigations systems, lasers, and smaller tactical satellites.

[Relevant contracts issued 23 Aug 2016, 10 May 2018, 15 June 2018, 20 Sept 2018.]

Johns Hopkins has also helped the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, DARPA, with engineering and research & development. That contract was issued 30 November 2016.

DARPA has played a key role in D.C.’s war crimes over the decades, including the forcible transfer of populations in Southeast Asia in the 1960s and 1970s, the development of drone technology through which the U.S. government assassinates innocents extra-judicially in Asia and Africa, the brutal Occupation of Iraq (2003-present), and the tactical bombing of civilian populations in Afghanistan. The crimes in southeast Asia are documented particularly well in Doug Valentine’s 1990 book, The Phoenix Program. Do Johns Hopkins faculty and staff truly believe DARPA will use the technology they develop for good?

Johns Hopkins is also helping with the War Department’s ongoing upgrade of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The total value of the overall upgrade may very well top $1.7 trillion USD. For its part, Johns Hopkins has a “strategic partnership” with the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. [A relevant contract was issued 17 July 2017.] War corporations flock to the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland and at Hill Air Force Base in Utah, constantly selling maintenance, upgrades, and “modernization” to the War Department. For the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, Johns Hopkins conducts research & development, assesses the capability of nuclear weaponry, and, frankly, improves the Pentagon’s ability to conduct a nuclear first strike. As the expert Daniel Ellsberg pointed out in his 2017 book The Doomsday Machine, the mere existence of nuclear weapons is a threat to all life on Earth.

Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab has helped the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) with engineering and testing of advanced sensors. [A pertinent contract was issued 30 November 2017.] As an organization, DIA is redundant. For example, its Defense Clandestine Service and Defense Cover Office do what CIA does: human intelligence, the recruitment and running of foreign spies.

Various parts of DIA would be better handled by other organizations: Measurement & Signatures Intelligence (MASINT) can be an Air Force domain, and Defense Attachés can be managed by the individual military branches in coordination with the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence & Research.

Another example: DIA’s Directorate of Analysis is one of dozens of intelligence analysis shops across the sixteen agencies and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that comprise the so-called U.S. Intelligence Community. Within this hodgepodge, DIA’s Directorate of Analysis produces no exceptional insights on the world. It just adds to the overwhelming flood of analyses batted around U.S. intelligence agencies and/or sent to the political appointees and careerists in the upper echelons of the U.S. “Intelligence Community.” If DIA’s Directorate of Analysis disappeared tomorrow, the federal government would not suffer. The only thing that would change is a slight decrease in the amount of intelligence analysis flooding the system. As it stands, there is too much intake and too many analytical reports coming into the system. So much so that the flood would take years to process properly, even if the intake and analysis stopped tomorrow.

Such a paradigm is good for business, though. DIA is heavily corporatized, with war corporations performing the bulk of the collection, processing, and analysis of information, and performing the bulk of the agency’s training. These corporations are constantly pitching the next great goods & services to DIA and the War Department as a whole, marketing such products as making analysts’ lives easier. Johns Hopkins support for DIA and its fraud, waste, and abuse is unconscionable.

All of the aforementioned contracts all took place at the Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland.

But back in Baltimore, Johns Hopkins is working on a program called Machine Translation for English Retrieval in Any Language (MATERIAL). [A relevant contract was issued 25 September 2017.]

MATERIAL got its start in the Pentagon’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA). The Pentagon established the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency in 2006, as if DARPA, the Air Force Research Lab, the Army Research Lab, the Naval Research Lab and other organizations weren’t enough.

Johns Hopkins’ work on MATERIAL involves honing machine learning and software in order to better translate words and interpret speech. Since MATERIAL has direct applications to Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), you can bet the program will be used against allied governments and groups & governments on the D.C. regime’s official enemies list. Understanding and full dominance of the world’s languages makes the War Department a better fighting force and improves the ability of signals intelligence organizations, like NSA, to monitor people around the world, including within the United States. Johns Hopkins support for the MATERIAL espionage program is immoral and inexcusable.

Johns Hopkins models itself as a cosmopolitan academic institution—one dedicated to human progress and the advancement of the global good. But its intricate ties to the War Department, including projects with DARPA and the militarization of space, show Johns Hopkins’ true colors. Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab is a functional appendage of the War Department, and the university cares more for the lucrative funding such a position offers than the fate of mankind or the nobility of academia.

The people are rising. Students at Johns Hopkins recently launched an occupation of the campus administration building in protest of the university’s contracts with Immigrations & Customers Enforcement (ICE). They were also protesting the university’s plans for an armed campus police force, and they were protesting in favor of union rights. Those in authority should listen to the people. The people have the power. Those in authority are there because the people have granted them temporary authority. If authority doesn’t listen to power, then authority will be removed. Such a process is called democracy.

And remember, war is a racket.


Christian Sorensen is a novelist and independent journalist. His work focuses on the U.S. war industry. Support Christian on Patreon.

From the archives:

Christian Sorensen: War Industry Muster–The Corporate Underpinnings of the Special Relationship

Christian Sorensen: War Industry Muster–War Is A Racket

Will Griffin: How the U.S. Military Shaped Global Capitalism

Will Griffin: Militarism is Capitalism

If You Really Love Your Country…

Anything War Can Do, Peace Can Do Better by David Swanson

What If Governments Obeyed Laws? by David Swanson + Merchants of Death: How the Military-Industrial Complex Profits from Endless War

Daniel Ellsberg: The Doomsday Machine, Parts 1-13

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