Send Lawyers, Guns and Money:
Lobbying and the Merchants of Death
from the book Washington on $10 million a Day
by Ken Silverstein
Common Courage Press, 1998
... The vast sums allocated each year to the Pentagon-$260
billion in 1997- constitutes the largest gravy train for private
interests in the history of mankind.
The scale of the plunder is not the only reason that military
lobbyists deserve special scrutiny. When the weapons industry
convinces Congress to dole out money for more tanks and planes,
a de facto outcome is that less money is left for social programs.
The choice truly is between guns and butter.
Yet eight years after the Berlin Wall came down, the defense
budget sits at the same level, in real dollars, as it did during
the 1950s, the coldest days of the Cold War. It has declined only
23 percent from its all time peak under Ronald Reagan. As of 1997,
the U.S. was spending almost as much on defense as the rest of
the world combined-and internal Defense Department studies show
a doubling of the Pentagon's budget over the next twenty years.
The money now being spent on "defense" is completely
out of proportion to any credible threat to national security.
The United States accounts for about half of all military spending
on the planet and with the Soviet Union gone, the gravest "threat"
to national security is posed by "rogue" nations such
as North Korea, Libya, Iran and Iraq.
The absurdity of this situation is matched only by the absurdity
of the military industry's post-Cold War lobbying efforts, which
have been greatly increased in order to fend off any threat to
its money pipeline. Here's an example of just how ridiculous things
have become: A few years ago, it appeared that Congress might
kill off a relic of the Cold War, the V-22 Osprey, a vertical
lift-off plane whose prime contractors are Boeing and Bell Helicopter.
From the perspective of Pentagon porkers and arms makers, the
V-22 has special appeal: since it is incapable of carrying any
of the military's current inventory of fighting vehicles, it has
opened the door to a subsidiary boondoggle, the armored dune buggy.
Said buggy, which is capable of attaining speeds of 80 miles per
hour, is being designed especially to fit on the V-22.
To help save the plane, lobbyists for the V-22 dreamed up
Alyssa, Albert B the Magic Plane, a cartoon book that was distributed
to members of Congress. The comic book opens with little Alyssa
playing in her backyard with Albert, a stuffed animal who springs
to life. The pair dream of attending the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta
but grow despondent upon concluding that they won't be able to
get to the games by bicycle (too far), truck (no drivers license),
boat (no water near Atlanta), the Space Shuttle (not practical),
or a variety of other means.
Just as the cuddly duo have reached the point of despair a
V22-the "Magic Plane"-lands in the backyard to fly them
to Atlanta. After "meeting people from all over the world
and learning new games," Alyssa and Albert remember that
"daddy would be done fixing the kitchen sink very soon and
that they needed to get back home. Alyssa wished again for the
Magic Plane to come take them home. And it did!"
The dramatic tale of Alyssa and other lobbying, combined with
hefty campaign donations from Boeing and Bell, led Congress to
save the V-22. Coming next: The arms makers sign up Barney the
Dinosaur to lobby for Star Wars.
The Pentagon's Nightmare Scenario: Budget Cuts
Though the military budget remains in the stratosphere, life
has become far more complicated for the arms lobby during the
past decade. During the Cold War, the military-industrial complex
needed only to point to the Soviet Union, and lawmakers would
immediately sign over a check to cover yet another of the Pentagon's
gold-plated boondoggles. With the Soviet Bear extinct and China
and other future "threats" not yet on line, the public
has grown somewhat more reluctant to tolerate Cold War levels
of defense spending.
Hence, soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall the arms industry
and the Pentagon began invoking the grave threat to national security
posed by the "rogue" nations. But this strategy never
galvanized the public. As Michael Klare has written in The Nation,
"None of the prominent rogues have made any move in recent
years to threaten U.S. interests seriously, and periodic claims
of major breakthroughs by these states in acquiring nuclear or
chemical weapons have rarely amounted to much....Only Iran now
appears as a credible enemy...[but it] spends only about 1 percent
of what the United States spends on defense [and its] poorly equipped
military is a mere shadow of the force assembled by Saddam Hussein
By 1997, the Pentagon had grown desperate to find a stand-in
for the Red Army, as seen in a secret document prepared by the
Air Force University that year and uncovered by journalist Andrew
Cockburn. Peering into the second decade of the coming millennium,
Air Force soothsayers were pointing to the emergence of a terrifying
specter they called The Khan (as in Genghis). By this the "futurists"
mean an aggressive China, enlarged by domination of the entire
Korean Peninsula, not to mention Japan and possibly Vietnam. The
Khan will be an economic superpower and thus able to develop and
produce the most advanced forms of weaponry. It therefore follows
that U.S. defense spending will have to rise commensurably to
defend the West against this ominous Asian monster.
Elsewhere in the Pentagon officials are invoking the menace
of "peer competitors," by which they mean China (though
not yet grown to Khan dimensions) and, bizarrely, Russia. Yet
others talk of GET, which stands for Generic Emerging Threat-a
menace as yet undefined but against which the U.S. had better
The Pet Rock Lobby
In addition to its failure to drum up a new "threat"
to national security, the arms industry lobby is burdened by the
shoddy nature of some of its wares. The primary cause here is
that the chief mission of the U.S. defense industry is not to
protect national security, but to inflate contractor profits.
This is seen in the case of McDonnell Douglas's hopeless C17
cargo plane. Like many current Pentagon projects, the C-17 gained
momentum following the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when
the Carter administration pushed for a wave of new defense spending
to counter the Red Menace. The Pentagon initially planned to buy
210 C-17s for $32 billion-$152 million apiece-but in 1990 cut
the order to 120 planes for $36 billion-$333 million apiece. In
1993, the program was further reduced to 40 planes, with the per
copy cost soaring to $700 million.
Since the original justification for the aircraft has vanished,
the Pentagon and McDonnell Douglas now insist that the cargo plane
is essential to national security because of its alleged ability
to move personnel and tons of equipment to distant combat zones.
Just as important is the C-17's much hyped capacity to land on
short, dirt airstrips, and thus handle the dangerous task of re-supplying
In reality, the C-17 is a threat to national security, and
to anyone who is forced to ride it. A 1992 Congressional Research
Service report detailed a few of the problems experienced by this
monstrous boondoggle, including multiple problems with the software
for the C-17's nineteen on-board computers. The C-17 also has
a mysterious center-of-gravity problem, which makes take-off extremely
dangerous unless the plane is fully loaded. When the aircraft
is empty, sources say, Air Force crews keep two 7,950 pound cement
blocs-known as the "pet rocks"-in the craft's forward
area to ensure safe take-off This means that the C-17 will either
fly into action pre-loaded with nearly eight tons of cement or
advance troops will be forced to tote along two "pet rocks"
to load onto the plane after removing its cargo.
Even worse, the C-17 is incapable of carrying out its assigned
task of forward re-supply. The enormous aircraft needs at least
4,000 feet of runway to land, 1,000 more than the Air Force claims.
A former Pentagon official tells me that the C-17 cannot come
down on a dirt airstrip because its jet engines will "ingest"
earth. "You could land it on a concrete strip but if you
try to put it down on dirt you'll end up with some very expensive
repair hills," says this person, who points out that advance
combat troops are not normally anywhere near a concrete landing
This same person says that a used Boeing 747, which can be
bought and modified for less than $100 million, can carry three
times as much cargo as the C- 17 and twice as far. In fact, the
Pentagon's old twin engine C-123, which was used in Vietnam, could
perform the C-17's job perfectly well Unfortunately, the Pentagon
hated that plane because it was inexpensive and lacked the glamour
of a jet-engine aircraft. As the source points out, "this
golden turkey represents a sizable chunk of the GNP and can be
blown to smithereens by a $22 mortar shell."
In the Belly of the Beast
If the post-Cold War environment has left arms makers exposed,
the industry still has plenty of assets when it comes to getting
its way in Washington. Chief among them is that weapons makers,
to an even greater extent than other industries, have especially
tight links to the government bureaucracy. When the Pentagon in
1997 needed a team to prepare a report on "reshaping the
U.S. military for the 21st century," it picked for the job
a task force headed by Philip Odeen, president of BDM, one of
the country's big defense companies. Odeen was ably assisted by
other hacks for the weapons lobby including Robert Riscassi, a
former Army general who now serves as a vice president at Lockheed.
The task force, known as the Quadrennial Defense Review, predictably
concluded that force levels should be cut further, but the Pentagon's
procurement budget should be increased, thereby ensuring future
profits for the arms industry.
The Pentagon's Defense Policy Advisory Committee on Trade
provides confidential recommendations to the Secretary of Defense
on the sale of weapons abroad. Members have included CEOs from
Lockheed, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and McDonnell, as well as a
number of former Pentagon officials who now serve as consultants
to the arms industry.
Needless to say, the Advisory Committee invariably favors
elimination of any barrier to foreign sales and the introduction
of a host of new public subsidies to arms companies. Then there's
the Pentagon's Defense Science Board, where Defense Department
officials and industry executives join hands to lard out vast
sums of money to fund research on future boondoggles. Past members
at the science board have included former Defense Secretary William
Perry; former CIA chief John Deutsch, and Paul Kaminski, the assistant
secretary for defense.
Worthy of more detail is the Defense Trade Advisory Group
(DTAG), the panel set up by the State Department to offer counsel
in regard to the Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) program, by which
defense contractors make private sales to foreign military and
police forces. Details about the DCS program are hard to come
by, since only deals worth more than $14 million must be reported
to Congress. In theory, State allows the sale of weapons destined
for a "defensive" role. It will not vend arms to an
In practice, State authorizes sales to virtually any nation
capable of paying for its purchases. Of some 20,000 requests for
licenses made by vendors in 1994, State rejected just 209. During
the Clinton years, State has sanctioned the sale of tank engines
to Israel, trainer aircraft to Taiwan, and Black Hawk helicopters
to Mexico. Also approved were deals with Guatemala, El Salvador,
Colombia and Saudi Arabia.
None of this is surprising after examining the roster of DTAG,
State's advisor on these deals. In 1995, 57 of the 60 panel members
came from the arms industry. The group was headed at the time
by William Schneider, a veteran of the military-industrial complex
who served as undersecretary of state for security assistance
during the Reagan/Bush years.
One especially enthusiastic DTAG member is Joel Johnson of
the Aerospace Industries Association. Reflecting the judicious
approach he brings to the committee, Johnson once told the Los
Angeles Times that he "would feel more guilty selling sugar-coated
breakfast cereal to kids" than he does about selling weapons
abroad. After the Chinese government carried out its bloody crackdown
at Tienanmen Square, Johnson fretted that the U.S. government
might prevent arms companies from cutting new deals with Beijing.
"If we get out of the Chinese market now, we could lose out
on sales well into the next century," he told William Hartung,
an analyst at the World Policy Institute. In any case, he added,
Tiananmen was no big deal. "For the Chinese, whether it was
200 or 2,000 deaths, it's just a blip on the radar screen. It's
like their version of Kent State."
The three non-industry members of DTAG are two lawyers and
Janne Nolan, a polite centrist from the Brookings Institution.
When former Arkansas Senator David Pryor questioned State Department
officials about the objectivity of the group, they pointed to
Nolan as providing balance.
DTAG is not a policy-making body, but it has lobbied the Clinton
administration on proposals it reviews, such as revisions in export
regulations and conventional arms transfer policy. "DTAG
has frequent, high-level access to the people who are making policy,"
says Lora Lumpe of the Federation of American Scientists. "People
from the arms control community are completely shut out of that
Opening a New Front in the Lobbying Wars
The end of communism convinced the arms lobby that Congress
could no longer be counted on to rubber stamp every new weapons
program put in front of it by the military-industrial complex.
Hence, many big defense firms greatly stepped up their beltway
lobbying efforts following the fall of the Berlin
A first step taken by many companies was to move corporate
offices to Washington, or to beef up existing D.C. operations.
The rush to the beltway began in earnest in 1991, when Grumman
(later bought by Northrop, which in 1997 was purchased by Lockheed)
moved from St. Louis to Falls Church in northern Virginia. As
then-CEO William Anders told the New York Times, the move was
made so as to bring the company's "leadership closer to our
principal customers and policy makers." Other companies followed
suit, including the nation's biggest defense contractor, Lockheed,
which moved from Calbasas, California, to Bethesda, Maryland,
after its merger with Martin Marietta in 1995. "There are
no longer plenty of programs to go around," John Harbison,
a vice president at Booz-Allen & Hamilton, told Defense News
in 1996 in explaining the eastward march.
The arms makers dramatically increased their spending on lobbying
programs as well. In 1987, GE was considered to be the defense
industry's lobbying powerhouse, with 19 lobbyists working in Washington.
Raytheon, Hughes and United Technology didn't have a single influence
peddler registered with Congress. Lobbying expenditures by the
big defense firms averaged about $40,000 per year. As late as
1991, the ten biggest defense companies had a total of 108 lobbyists
registered in Washington.
As of mid-1997, Lockheed Martin alone has 87 lobbyists registered
with Congress, 26 working out of the company's own offices and
61 at outside firms that the company had on retainer. Lockheed's
total lobbying expenditures for 1996 totaled $3.8 million, 10
times more than the combined lobbying expenditures for the ten
biggest defense contractors in 1985.
While Boeing has fewer lobbyists on its payroll-70-it spent
more than Lockheed, shelling out $5.2 million for lobbying in
1996. Other arms makers have similarly huge efforts, with Northrop
employing 58 lobbyists and McDonnell Douglas 53.
The merchants of death have also stepped up their pace of
campaign contributions. In 1987, political contributions by weapons
companies averaged a few hundred thousand dollars a year. In 1996,
Lockheed Martin ponied up $2.3 million in PAC and soft money contributions
to the big parties. All told, defense makers delivered more than
$11 million to friends in high places during the 1996 presidential
and congressional campaigns.
To build further political support on Capitol Hill, arms makers
have begun promoting weapons systems as being not only vital to
national security but jobs programs to boot. To make the jobs
pitch work, defense makers spread out contracts and subcontracts
across the nation, thereby giving every state- and more importantly,
most members of Congress-a stake in a given arms program.
Rockwell made especially smart use of this tactic in lobbying
for its B-1 bomber, the hideously expensive plane deemed so unreliable
that the Air Force didn't dare send it into combat during the
Gulf War (and now put out to pasture with the National Guard,
which will presumably use the craft to conduct urgent national
security tasks such as bombing marijuana plantations). Some 5,000
companies in all 48 contiguous states worked on the B-1. The wings
were made in Nashville, the tail assembly in Baltimore, engines
near Cincinnati, wheels in Akron and electronic units in Nashua,
New Hampshire. "From the standpoint of efficiency, to try
to make a [weapons system] in as many congressional districts
as possible is nuts," former Rep. Patricia Schroeder told
the New York Times a few years back. "But from a lobbying
standpoint it's incredibly sophisticated."
An Army of Lobbyists:
The Pentagon's Job Placement Program
The arms lobby's firepower is further augmented by the nonstop
revolving door between the Pentagon and the defense industry.
Common Cause published a study some years ago which showed that
between 1983 and 1985, 3,745 officers with the rank of major or
above, along with top level civilian employees at the Pentagon,
had gone to work for arms contractors. The revolving door is spinning
just as fast today, with thousands of Cold War veterans-both bureaucrats
and soldiers-now serving as consultants and lobbyists to the arms
industry, as well as on the boards of directors of the big weapons
Until 1997, Lockheed was headed by Norman Augustine, a former
secretary of the army. The company's board includes retired Gen.
Riscassi, mentioned above as a member of the Pentagon panel that
issued a report on future defense priorities. Among the top lobbyists
at the company's corporate offices in Bethesda, Maryland, are
Alan Ptak, a former Navy deputy secretary of defense, and Jack
Overstreet, ex-chief of weapons systems at the Air Force.
Then there's SAIC, a huge high-tech firm, which receives more
contracts from the government than any other company. It translates
and decodes intercepts for the NSA, provides the CIA with computer
software to analyze intelligence data, and has a variety of contracts
working on the Star Wars missile defense program. SAIC's board
members have included two former defense secretaries-William Perry
and Melvin Laird- and three former heads of the CIA-John Deutsch,
Bobby Ray Inman, and Robert Gates. Most top positions at the firm
are filled by retired military officials, spooks, former Congressional
staffers and employees of federal agencies
In the years immediately following World War 11, military
officers did not commonly go to work for defense companies upon
retiring from active duty (with the exception of the Air Force,
which has always been the most corrupt service branch). There
was a social stigma about using influence and knowledge attained
while serving one's country as tools of profiteering. Today, such
inhibitions have all but disappeared.
Ernie Fitzgerald is the Air Force official who was fired by
President Nixon because he blew the whistle on cost overruns on
Lockheed's G130. Fitzgerald sued to get his job back and was reinstated
four years later following a long court battle. Fitzgerald is
still at the Pentagon and is as crotchety as ever about the corruption
there. Here's how he explains the inner workings of the revolving
Military officers for the most part are forced to retire when
their family expenses are at a peak-they've got a couple of kids
in college and they're still paying a mortgage. They won't starve
on their retired pay. But at the same time they can't keep up
their lifestyle. What happens in our system is that the services
see one of their management duties as placing their retired officers,
just like a good university will place its graduates. And the
place the services have the most influence at is with the contractors.
If you're a good clean-living officer and you don't get drunk
at lunch or get caught messing around with the opposite sex in
the office, and you don't raise too much of a fuss about horror
stories you come across-when you retire, a nice man will come
calling. Typically he'll be another retired officer. And he'll
be driving a fancy car, a Mercedes or equivalent, and wearing
a $2,000 suit and Gucci shoes and Rolex watch. He will offer to
make a comfortable life for you by getting you a comfortable job
at one of the contractors.
Now, if you go around kicking people in the shins, raising
hell about the outrages committed by the big contractors, no nice
man comes calling. It's that simple.
Sell, Sell, Sell: Lobbyists and Foreign Arms Sales
A particularly illuminating case of the revolving door in
action is that of retired Lt. Gen. Howard Fish. A former Pentagon
staffer I interviewed says Fish worked in the Pentagon for decades
but always as a staff officer. "He never commanded anything
in his life," this person says. "He was one of the all-time
champions of service in the Pentagon, always holding ass-kissing
During the Nixon and Ford administrations, Fish headed the
Defense Security Assistance Agency (DSAA), the Pentagon bureau
that handles foreign military sales and one of the more corrupt
components of the military establishment. The DSAA has a field
staff of about 1,000 people who work out of the U.S. embassy in
some 15 countries. They offer everything from briefings on weapons
systems to demonstrations of major aircraft, in addition to arranging
the financing needed to close a deal.
The DSAA receives a 3 percent commission per sale- which provides
about 80 percent of its operating budget-and agency personnel
are promoted on the basis of the* ability to move weaponry. Due
to this dynamic, says a 1991 report from Congress's now defunct
Office of Technology Assessment, "there is powerful incentive
for DSAA personnel to make as many sales as possible."
As head of the DSAA, Fish was an exuberant promoter of selling
weapons to any and all buyers. According to William Hartung of
the World Policy Institute, Fish played a key role in watering
down the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, which would have placed
a ceiling on total foreign arms sales and given Congress the right
to veto sales on human rights grounds.
During the early 1970s, Fish was among several officials who
were found to have passed sensitive information about contractual
matters to several big arms makers, including Lockheed and LTV
Aerospace & Defense. The information was of great use to the
arms makers, as it involved plans for overseas sales and information
about what weapons systems might be targeted for cuts. The affair
caused a huge scandal inside the Pentagon, but Fish escaped censure.
At roughly the same time Fish became heavily involved in sales
to Iran, then headed by the Shah. Iran was seen as an enormous
cash cow for the Pentagon and the arms makers. The environment
surrounding the arms trade was so corrupt that even the Shah became
incensed, especially about American "brokers" for U.S.
companies who were running around Iran and receiving huge commissions
on deals they arranged. When the Shah sought to eliminate bribes
and fees paid to these brokers, Fish fought him every inch of
the way, claiming that this would impinge on the flexibility contractors
needed to close deals.
Later in the decade Fish began to take a keen interest in
Egypt, as that nation was coming on-line as a major buyer of U.S.
weaponry. As a result of the 1978 Camp David accords, Egypt was
to receive $1 billion per year in military aid. To ship weapons
to the Egyptians, the Pentagon signed an exclusive contract with
a company called Eatsco, which was formed by an Egyptian government
official named Hussein K. Salem and a retired CIA official named
Thomas Clines, who later played a prominent role in the Iran-Contra
scandal. A third principal, though a silent one, was Edwin Wilson,
the retired CIA agent who at the time was living in Libya and
providing military equipment and training to the government of
Muammar Quaddafi. Wilson is currently serving a 52-year prison
term for arranging shipments of explosives to Quaddafi, and for
subsequent attempts to kill witnesses against him.
It later turned out that Eatsco had overbilled the Pentagon
by $8 million on shipments to the Egyptians. In one case, Eatsco
billed the government $1.3 million for a shipment that cost about
half that much. The mark-up increased further on a $46,409 shipment
for which Eatsco billed the government $210,904.
It also turned out that Eatsco had two additional principals,
both silent partners who worked inside the government. The two
were Fish's closest cronies at the Pentagon, Richard Secord, later
another big player in the Iran-Contra affair, and Erich von Marbod,
who served as Fish's second in command at the DSAA. Secord and
von Marbod were forced to retire from the Pentagon as a result
of the Eatsco affair, though the cause was hushed up.
Fish's work at the Pentagon provided him with the perfect
resume when he decided to retire from government in the late 1970s.
He quickly found work with LTV-one of the two firms he had provided
classified information to a few years earlier. Within months of
his resignation he turned up in Malaysia, where he was hawking
A-7 fighters. Fish also hired von Marbod to work at LTV's Paris
Fish later worked as the head of international marketing for
Loral, another big weapons maker, and then took charge of the
American League for Exports and Security Assistance (ALESA) in
the late 1980s. The latter outfit is one of the many powerful
trade groups formed by arms makers-others include the Aerospace
Industries Association and the American Defense Preparedness Association-to
lobby for higher military outlays at home and greater U.S. military
One of Fish's chief missions has been promoting the sale of
weapons to the Middle East, especially to Saudi Arabia where Fish
has intimate connections (he kept a picture of Saudi King Fahd
on a bookcase at his office). Back in 1989, Fish met with chief
of staff John Sununu and National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft
in a successful effort to convince the Bush administration to
sell frontline tanks and supersonic fighters to Arab countries.
An impressive display of the ALESA's efforts came in the early
1990s, when at the behest of weapons makers it helped form the
Middle East Action Group to press for deals then in the pipeline
with the Saudis. Other members of the coalition included GE, Ford,
Bechtel, Boeing, and the U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce
In addition to Fish, the Action Group also retained the services
of a number of high-powered consultants with links to the Saudis.
Dov Zakheim, a former deputy defense undersecretary for Reagan,
chief defense adviser to Bob Dole during the 1996 presidential
campaign and head of a consulting firm called SPC International.
Zakheim is an ordained rabbi with close ties to the American Jewish
community. His great credibility with the pro-Israel lobby makes
Zakheim especially useful to arms makers lobbying for sales to
Sandra Charles served on the National Security Council as
director for Middle East Affairs during the Bush years. After
retiring, she formed a consulting firm, C&O Resources, which
handles foreign policy analysis, business development, and arms
sales to the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia.
Robert Lilac, head of Lilac Associates, which represents both
arms contractors and foreign governments who buy weapons from
U.S. companies. Lilac is a former Air Force officer who also served
on the National Security Council during the Reagan years, where
he was an intimate companion with several key figures in the Iran-Contra
scandal, especially Richard Secord. Lilac commands a premium among
the weapons makers due to his close relationship with Prince Bandar,
the long-time Saudi ambassador to the U.S., who Lilac worked for
immediately after he left government service. As Joel Johnson
of Aerospace Industries Association once explained, "Bob
knows the Saudi system, he knows the industry, and he knows the
The Middle East Working Group's lobbying campaign was laid
out in a 300-page strategy book. It shows that the coalition assigned
individuals to work with the White House, the State Department,
the National Security Council, the Pentagon, key committees of
Congress, the media, think tanks, veterans groups and patriotic
organizations. The strategy book also called for member companies
to mobilize their workers, middle managers and executives to flood
Washington with telegrams and phone calls supporting arms sales.
Another group focused on putting the best possible spin on
arms sales. Among the themes developed for public consumption
were that "the sooner we bolster the Saudi military, the
sooner...[U.S. military personnel in Saudi Arabia] will be able
to return to the United States" and that "blocking arms
sales...is a sure way to cripple our economy and cause unnecessary
layoffs of thousands of professionals." The coalition didn't
get everything it asked for, but its member companies succeeded
in ramming billions of dollars of dollars worth of deals through
Congress during the past few years.
Fish recently left the league to become a consultant to Lockheed
Martin. He also wears a second hat as a member of the export policy
subcommittee of the DPACT, where he advises the Pentagon on the
international arms trade.
The Invisible Man
It's not only Pentagon retirees who moving through the revolving
door to work for the defense industry. Countless former denizens
of Capitol Hill also make the move, lured by the big bucks offered
up by weapons makers. Paul Magliocchetti left a job at the House
Appropriations Committee in 1988 and now heads a powerful lobby
shop that caters to defense firms. In a 1996 report, Legal Times
called Magliocchetti "The Invisible Man," and detailed
how an "obscure Hill aide...became a million dollar lobbyist."
Magliocchetti's specialty when he worked on the Hill was defense
appropriations. Before that he worked at the General Accounting
Office, where he conducted audits and investigations of the Pentagon.
All this helped Magliocchetti learn the nuts and bolts of the
defense industry and the budget process, two skills that proved
vital when he decided to strike out on his own as a lobbyist.
Legal Times quoted former Rep. Charles Wilson as saying, "The
thing about Paul is [he and his lobbying aides] just always had
such a wealth of knowledge, and they could really make their case...They
just knew [in] what line of the bill" they should place a
special favor to their clients.
Magliocchetti incorporated his lobbying firm in October of
1988. He was still drawing a salary at the House until at least
two months later. Within months of retiring he had signed up his
first client, the Sikorsky Aircraft Division of United Technologies.
Many of Magliocchetti's current aides previously worked at
the Pentagon, including Thomas Veltri, who had served as the Air
Force's liaison with Appropriations Committees in Congress. Magliocchetti's
firm also runs a generous political action committee- it gave
more than $75,000 during the 1996 election cycle-and throws an
annual Christmas party for members of Congress and their staffers
at the Alpine restaurant in Arlington, just across the Potomac
All of this has paid off nicely. Magliocchetti, who was forced
to eke out a modest living on his $65,200-a-year salary at House
Appropriations, now rakes in big fees from dozens of firms. Legal
Times says his company's revenues topped $1 million during the
first half of 1996, ranking it 42nd on the newspaper's ranking
of top lobby shop money earners.
Government Issue Golden Parachutes
Stepped up lobbying efforts by the arms industry have paid
big dividends these past few years. Even as Congress hacks away
at social programs, it has granted virtually every budgetary wish
of the defense lords.
One especially egregious assault on the federal treasury involves
a Pentagon decision to reimburse defense contractors for expenses
related to mergers and acquisitions. This taxpayer rip-off dates
to June 3, 1993. On that day, the CEOs of Martin Marietta, GM
Hughes Electronics, Lockheed and Loral Corporation wrote a letter
to then Under Secretary of Defense John Deutsch saying that the
Pentagon's policy at that time of refusing to help pay for merger
costs would "discourage needed restructuring...[and] undermine
the defense industrial base."
Deutsch responded swiftly. Just a month later, he unilateralIy
overruled the Pentagon's own internal auditors and decreed that
henceforth contractors could submit merger-related bills to the
Defense Department for review.
That the top Pentagon brass was so sensitive to the CEOs,
who were led by Norman Augustine of Martin Marietta, was understandable.
Before moving to the Pentagon, Deutsch had served as a consultant
to Augustine's firm for nine years, earning $425,000. Then Defense
Secretary William Perry was part owner of a firm, Technology Strategies
& Alliances, which had a contract with Martin Marietta until
Recognizing that the public might not look kindly upon the
new policy, Deutsch and the Pentagon prudently failed to notify
Congress of the payoff plan. The program only came to light in
early 1994, when former Senator Sam Nunn, who then headed the
Senate Armed Services Committee, received a memo showing that
Martin Marietta was seeking $60 million from the Pentagon to help
pay for its $208 million acquisition of General Dynamic's space
division. The Pentagon didn't even publish the decision in the
Federal Register until months after it was made.
That $60 million request from Martin Marietta foreshadowed
a stampede by big defense contractors heading for the public trough.
Lockheed and Martin Marietta merged in March 1995, a move that
will eliminate 30,000 jobs. The new company, Lockheed Martin,
later submitted bills to the federal government for more than
$1 billion in restructuring costs. The bills included a plea for
taxpayer help in paying for $31 million out of $92 million in
bonuses that the companies paid to their top executives in the
merger's aftermath. Augustine, who became CEO of the new company,
was showered with a cash payment of $10.6 million, as well as
stock options worth $9.5 million. Daniel Tellep, who had been
president of Lockheed, pocketed the same amount in stock options
as well as $4.3 million in cash. (The Pentagon gave preliminary
approval for $16 million of the bonus money requested and is reviewing
Ten months after Lockheed Martin was formed, the new company
swallowed up the Loral Corporation. After agreeing to sell his
firm, Loral's CEO Bemard Schwartz-who was one of the letter writers
to Deutsch-received a $35 million bonus, part of which taxpayers
were also asked to cover.
Other defense contractors have moved to cash in on the Pentagon's
largesse. By 1997, the government was reviewing 30 applications
for merger subsidies totaling $2 billion.
The weapons makers and the Pentagon insist that post-Cold
War cuts in military spending have made industry consolidation
necessary. Further, they claim, mergers will lead to greater efficiency
and therefore reduce the prices defense companies charge the government.
"I'm puzzled at how a policy that saves the government billions
of dollars can be termed a subsidy," Chip Manor, a Lockheed
spokesman, told me when I asked about the Pentagon policy.
Yet it is far from clear that the savings promised by the
arms industry will ever materialize. A 1996 report from the Government
Accounting Office examined eight defense mergers that had been
approved by the Pentagon and found that actual savings realized
are less than half of what defense companies had estimated when
applying for subsidies.
We Arm the World
To ensure that they remain profitable in the event, however
unlikely, that Congress should decide to cut the domestic defense
budget, arms makers have aggressively lobbied for greater foreign
sales. Between 1993 and 1996, the government approved about $75
billion worth of arms exports, to 160 of the world's 180 nations
(about half of all sales went to non-democratic countries). The
U.S. controls more than half of the international arms market,
and foreign purchases now account for about 25 percent of all
defense orders, up from 15 percent in the 1980s.
It's hard to see how exporting weapons can possibly enhance
U.S. or international security. A large share of American exports
go to countries at war and soon end up on the battlefield. U.S.
troops based abroad are also endangered by American exports. As
a CIA report from 1995 noted, "the acquisition of advanced
conventional weapons and technologies by hostile countries could
result in significant casualties being inflicted on U.S. forced
or regional allies." In fact, U.S. troops deployed to Bosnia,
Haiti, Somalia, Kuwait and Panama have confronted foreign forces
armed with weapons that were made in America.
None of this has stopped the government from increasing federal
subsidies for arms exports-which total more than $7.5 billion
annually at the behest of the weapons lobby. In September of 1996,
President Clinton agreed to eliminate "recoupment fees,"
this being a special tax on foreign military sales that allowed
the federal treasury to recover a portion of taxpayer-funded R&D
costs. Two months later, the Pentagon inaugurated its new "Defense
Export Loan Guarantee" program by which the government will
underwrite the sale of U.S. weapons to a selected list of 38 foreign
countries. If purchasers default, taxpayers will pick up the bill.
In early 1997, the administration again caved to the weapons
makers. This time it lifted a ban on the sale of advanced weaponry-for
example, fighter jets and missiles-to South America, which had
been imposed during the Carter years when the continent was largely
ruled by military regimes.
The last thing Latin America needs is an arms race to acquire
a new generation of high-priced weaponry. Most Latin American
nations have only recently emerged from long periods of military
rule and the armed forces remain politically powerful. Furthermore,
Latin governments are smothering in debt and have little money
available to pay for social programs, let alone F-16s.
Needless to say, the arms industry is not terribly interested
in such issues. Since sales of fighter planes are the companies'
biggest money maker, they rallied as one in seeking to overturn
the 25-year old ban. The effort was particularly intense because
traditional big volume buyers in the Middle East are uniformly
cash-strapped, leaving the arms makers desperate to crack new
Until 1994, the Clinton administration indicated it favored
maintenance of the Latin arms embargo. That year it prevented
Lockheed from attending an international air show in Chile. The
arms lobby was outraged, particularly as Britain, France, Israel,
Russia and vendors from at least two dozen other companies used
the show to hawk their wares.
The Clinton administration was not the only obstacle in the
arms makers' path. For if the supply was willing, the demand was
not. Latin nations had not expressed any real interest in buying
advanced weaponry, least of all the fighter planes the arms makers
were so keen to off-load. In 1982, Venezuela had received a waiver
from the Reagan administration that allowed it to buy 26 F-16s,
but the country did not have the money to fly or maintain the
planes. Most simply sat parked in Air Force hangars.
To start the ball rolling on the supply side, DPACT issued
a study in 1995 calling for a "balanced policy" that
would allow South American nations to meet "the demands...for
needed equipment modernization." Joel Johnson, who chaired
the panel, later said that the U.S. was "treat[ing] the Latins
like children when we say they can't have new planes."
During the 1996 campaign, the arms lobby got the GOP to include
a plank in its platform promising that the Clinton administration's
"policy of denying most Latin American countries the opportunity
to replace their obsolescent military equipment...will be reversed
by a Republican administration." That same year, more than
100 members of Congress signed two separate letters to the Clinton
administration-drafted by the merchants of death themselves-claiming
that the Latin ban had cost U.S. companies $4 billion in exports
and 40,000 jobs.
The arms lobby also moved to sweep away demand side barriers.
As lime magazine reported, the Pentagon in March of 1996 sent
advanced fighters to Chile for an air show. The Defense Department
also arranged for Puerto Rican National Guard pilots to fly Brazilian
generals in F-16s. Within months, Brazil and Chile-whose military
is less pressed for cash than most of its neighbors as it receives
10 percent of national copper exports-had taken the bait, with
both nations contacting the Pentagon to inquire about possible
The rest was simple. When William Perry resigned as Secretary
of Defense in 1997 he wrote a letter to Clinton urging him to
reconsider the ban. Perry's successor, William Cohen, also began
lobbying for the change shortly after he joined the administration.
The spring of 1997 saw Clinton's inevitable capitulation, with
the president unveiling a draft policy on arms sales to South
America that was virtually identical to the one proposed by DPACT
in its original 1995 report.
Pork Central: The Appropriations Trough
Some of the fiercest military lobbying battles have involved
fights to obtain (or maintain) appropriations for new weapons
programs. This is where the real pork lies, as any first generation
system costs billions and billions of dollars. A really good contract
will allow a contractor to plunder the federal treasury for decades,
from R&D through final sales and then post-production business,
such as maintenance and repairs, and modifications.
One costly taxpayer swindle involves Lockheed's F-22 fighter,
a plane originally conceived as a counter to a new generation
of Soviet fighters and planned to be based at European air bases
in order to deter a Warsaw Pact assault on NATO forces. Since
this function no longer serves as an alibi, Lockheed's promo material
for the F-22 now argues that the plane is needed because of the
threat posed by "regional aggressors," pointing here
to the formidable aircraft possessed by potential U.S. adversaries.
Yet according to Harper's, if a single nation somehow gained control
of every Soviet MIG-29 and Su-27 on the planet, the U.S. Air Force
already has a tactical fleet that would outnumber this ominous
threat by seven to one. A Congressional Budget Office report in
1995 said that "the F-22 may provide more capability to attack
enemy fighters than the United States needs." A GAO report
the following year concluded that "the aircraft and air defense
forces of potential adversaries have not been substantially improved
and do not pose a serious threat."
Like all big-money weapons projects, the F-22 has suffered
outrageous cost overruns. The Pentagon initially estimated that
the plane would cost $60 million each, a price that has now risen
to $148 million each. Lockheed succeeded in driving up the cost
by covering the plane with as much high-tech gold-plating as it
could dream up-"every extra except fuzzy dice," Harper's
said. All the additional hardware added 12,000 pounds to the plane's
weight, making it impossible for the fighter to carry out one
of its supposed strong suits-flying at supersonic speeds-other
than for brief bursts.
Despite all of its drawbacks, Lockheed has succeeded in maintaining
hefty funding for the plane (though the initial order of 438 has
been reduced to 339). In a bid to ensure Congressional support,
the company lavished out portions of the F-22 pie to 676 companies
in 44 states. In 1990, Lockheed had the foresight to move the
main F-22 production plant to Georgia, home of then Senate Armed
Services chairman Sam Nunn, widely known during his years of public
service as the "Senator from Lockheed." After Nunn retired,
another Georgian, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, stepped in to lead
Congressional forces battling for the F-22.
The boldest move by Lockheed lobbyists came in the early l990s,
when even a few defense hawks were getting squeamish about the
F-22's soaring costs and dwindling promise. The company then began
circulating promo literature that laid out the top threats to
American air supremacy, a list that includes everything from Russian
MIG-29s owned by nations such as Iraq and North Korea to Lockheed's
own F-16s, which the company has sold to "hostile" nations
like Israel, South Korea and Canada. Lockheed goes so far as to
boast that the F-22 can stymie the air defense radar systems which
it has installed on the planes it has previously exported abroad.
"We can't predict the future 30 years from now," Jeff
Rhodes, a Lockheed spokesman, said in an interview. "A military
dictator could take power in a country [that owns Lockheed aircraft]
which is currently an ally."
With amazing audacity, Lockheed and the Pentagon are already
stating that the F-22 might be made available to foreign countries
as a means of reducing per unit costs. Possible buyers are Japan,
Israel and Saudi Arabia. Already, one can hear Lockheed's next
battle cry: Give us money to develop a new plane that can counter
the dread threat posed by foreign nations which own the F-22!
The Mother of All Boondoggles
A full listing of Pentagon boondoggles would require a multi-volume
collection. However, there is one project that stands out as perhaps
the most egregious taxpayer rip-off of the post World War II period:
The B-2 bomber, whose stealth technology is supposed to make it
invisible to enemy radar.
The B-2 is the single most expensive piece of military equipment
ever designed, costing three times its weight in gold and carrying
a per unit price of about $2 billion. Congress has already allocated
$44 billion for the project, a figure that exceeds the annual
defense budget for all but a few nations in the world.
When Northrop Grumman, the plane's prime contractor, was awarded
the B-2 contract by the Reagan administration in 1981, the company
and the Pentagon sold it as a remarkable new weapon which could
penetrate deep into Soviet air space, inflict heavy damage and
then safely fly home. Northrop executives were alarmed after Mikhail
Gorbachev took power and began dismantling the communist system.
An internal company memo from the period suggested that Northrop
should begin selling the B-2 as "a prudent hedge against
the uncertainty that [Gorbachev] may fail (or change his mind)."
Northrop was forced to come up with a new PR spin when Gorbachev
was evicted from power and Boris Yeltsin decreed the end of the
Soviet Union. The company has since claimed (among other things)
that as the number of forward-deployed aircraft carriers declines
and the U.S. gradually withdraws from its overseas bases, the
B-2 will become more vital than ever because of its ability to
carry out long-range missions from bases in the U.S.
Whatever the spin, Northrop's fundamental problem is that
its plane is a dog. The B-2 employs a technology-stealth- that
has never been shown to work. A Pentagon source who has reviewed
classified data calls stealth "the biggest fraud ever perpetrated
on the American public." He says that during the Gulf War,
British destroyers picked up stealth crafts from 40 miles away.
U.S. radar identified them at up to five times that distance.
In regard to the B-2 specifically, this source points out that
the bomber weighs a staggering 360,000 pounds. "There's no
way to hide something like that," he states, adding that
the B-2's gigantic size makes it "stick out like a dog turd
in a fish bowl."
The conventional wisdom is that stealth craft, especially
the F-117, played a central role in the Gulf War. In fact, stealth
was completely irrelevant. The key to the Allied victory was that
the Iraqi army suffered the largest mass desertions in history;
up to 175,000 soldiers fled the front before the ground combat
began. The desertions resulted from Saddam Hussein's having stuffed
the front with segregated units of Shiite and Kurd troops. Realizing
that they were merely cannon fodder, huge numbers returned to
their villages. That left some 25,000 troops to confront 400,000
U.S.-led soldiers. The latter could have walked in with swords.
Even if stealth technology worked, the B-2 wouldn't. The plane's
stealth coating is extremely frail and suffers serious damage
if exposed to rain or sun. The plane needs to be recoated frequently
and B-2 pilots are only allowed to fly the bomber for a few hours
per week. A 1997 General Accounting Office report said that "it
is unlikely that the aircraft's sensitivity to moisture and climates
or the need for controlled environments to fix low-observability
problems will ever be fully resolved, even with improved materials
and repair processes."
Stealth technology is just the start of the B-2's problems.
Another GAO report, this one from 1995, found that the bomber's
radar system malfunctions, leaving the plane unable to distinguish
between a mountain and a rain cloud. The same GAO report concluded,
"After 14 years of development... including six years of
flight testing, the Air Force has yet to demonstrate that the
B-2 design will meet some of its most important mission requirements."
A sign of the B-2's troubles came in the spring of 1997. Though
the bomber had already performed substantial test flights, it
was only on April 1 of that year that it was certified as combat
ready and put on active duty. Northrop immediately announced in
a series of newspaper ads that with the bomber finally fit for
action, America's enemies had better watch their step. Within
days, a shaft assembly in one of the engines of one of the planes
cracked and the B-2 was withdrawn from the active roster.
There is a general recognition that the B-2 is a grotesque
boondoggle. Already back in 1989, the Washington Post was reporting
that consensus on the need for the B-2 had "crumbled,"
and was predicting its imminent demise. The original order for
the plane shrank from 132 to 75 and then, in 1992, Congress and
President Bush agreed to a compromise that terminated the program
with an order of 20 planes. Several Pentagon reports have concluded
that there is no need to build any more of the bombers and the
Air Force itself has said it can't afford the plane, preferring
to spend its money instead on short-range tactical jets it can
Despite all of this, Northrop and its allies have scored a
series of major victories these past few years. In 1995, Northrop
got Congress to approve $493 million in new money for the bomber.
During the presidential campaign the following year, Clinton,
playing to voters in Califomia-where Northrop and the B-2 production
lines are located-added one more bomber to the package. In 1997,
hawks in Congress led by Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington state,
home to Boeing, a key subcontractor on the B-2, began pressing
to raise the order back up to 30.
Why does the B-2 live on? The answer can be found in the expensive
and multi-pronged lobbying campaign Northrop has conducted over
most of the past decade. That campaign well illustrates why Congress
continues to approve Cold War-era military budgets despite there
being no plausible threat to the nation's security.
Northrop's lobbying for the B-2 has covered all of the bases,
from hiring up former Pentagon officials to press Congress, to
orchestrating fake "grassroots" uprisings. The company's
top in-house lobbyist on the B-2 is Robert Helm, a former Pentagon
Comptroller. He joined the company in 1994, replacing Togo West,
who had been named secretary of the army. Offering outside counsel
is Michael Balzano, a Nixon administration veteran who moved to
the American Enterprise Institute and later worked on the Reagan/Bush
campaign of 1980. Balzano now heads his own lobbying firm and
represents almost all major defense contractors.
To provide further firepower on Capitol Hill, Northrop wheeled
out Chuck Horner, the Air Force official who designed the Gulf
War air campaign and who is revered by members of Congress. Homer,
who is on Northrop's payroll, has testified several times before
Congress about the B-2's awesome capabilities. The B-2 campaign
has been further assisted by a number of other retired Pentagon
officials. In 1995, former Air Force Secretary Don Rice was brought
in to brief wavering members on the day of the vote.
Northrop has greatly assisted the B-2's cause by doling out
billions of dollars' worth of work to subcontractors across the
country. As a result, the plane has been built, at various times,
in 46 states and 383 congressional districts. Fourteen suppliers
build the airframe and 25 firms make the electronic systems. Boeing
received a subcontract for landing gear assemblies and then further
subcontracted with at least ten more firms, ranging from giants
such as Allied Signal and Goodyear to small companies such as
Crissair of California and Cleveland Pneumatic. In short, there's
a bit of pork for everybody, whether it's the $791 million in
contracts spread across Texas or the $100,000 for West Virginia,
where IMO Industries in Huntington makes clamps for the bomber.
Northrop relies on its vast network of subcontractors when
it comes time to lobby for the plane's survival. During a crucial
vote in 1995, Northrop brought together hundreds of subcontractor
CEOs, who fanned out across the Capitol to press home state lawmakers.
Nor has Northrop skimped when it came to larding out campaign
contributions to members of Congress. During the 1996 election
cycle, the company poured more than $700,000 into political campaigns.
About $80,000 of that was dispensed in June, the month that the
House voted-by a margin of 213 to 210-to provide additional money
for the B-2. Northrop's 213 allies received an average of $2,073
in PAC money from the company in 1996, while B-2 opponents received
an average of a mere $113.
No member of Congress has shilled for the B-2 with greater
fervor than Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington, who took in $10,000
from Northrop, the maximum allowed, during the 1995-1996 election
cycle. Dicks even took advantage of the 1996 incident, in which
Scott O'Grady was shot down during a reconnaissance flight in
Bosnia, to seek support for his pet bomber. In several public
statements, Dicks claimed that if the B-2 had been in America's
arsenal at the time, this tragic event might not have taken place
as if the Air Force would ever dispatch and risk losing a $2 billion
plane to conduct a simple reconnaissance mission. (When he was
in the Senate in 1989, Defense Secretary William Cohen remarked
that using the B-2 in any conventional war would be like sending
"a Rolls-Royce down into a combat zone to pick up groceries.")
Northrop has arranged to fly lawmakers less enthusiastic than
Dicks to visit its production lines in Pico Rivera and Palmdale,
California. "I have visited the B-2 factory in Califomia,
seen the B-2, climbed on its extraordinary wing, and in the cockpit,
and met with representatives of the literally hundreds of firms
that designed and built it," Rep. Sam Brownback marveled
during House debate after returning from his tour. For black lawmakers,
Northrop provides a list of minority-owned firms that have received
work on the bomber, while women lawmakers get a list detailing
all the female-owned firms taking part.
Similar efforts have been made to woo the public. To fine
tune the PR spin for the B-2, Northrop once hired Democratic pollster
Peter Hart, whose focus groups responded best to the theme that
the bomber exposes fewer pilots to danger. The company has unleashed
numerous advertising blitzes to take that message to the masses.
Northrop has twice retained that king of the "grassroots,"
Jack Bonner, to build public momentum for the B-2. In the early
1990s, when it appeared that the Cold War's end would lead to
a collapse of congressional support for the B-2, Bonner's phoners
helped turn the tide by prodding hundreds of organizations- representing
seniors, minorities, religious groups, police chiefs, farmers
and Rotary Club presidents-to send postcards to congress that
called for continued production of the bomber.
In 1996, Northrop again hired Bonner after President Clinton
decided to include no new money for the B-2 in the 1997 budget.
Bonner & Associates sent a letter to Northrop employees and
suppliers saying it was "absolutely vital" to inform
President Clinton that his action would have a devastating impact
"on you, on Califomia, and on the country." The letter
provided a toll-free number to call, with operators standing by
to take orders for telegrams to the White House. Though Northrop
and Bonner did not succeed in freeing up more cash for the B-2,
Clinton and Congress maintained funding for the bombers that had
been previously ordered.
Public opinion has also been targeted by a number of prominent
defense intellectuals. The foremost public proponent of the B-2
is Loren Thompson of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution in
Arlington, an outfit that receives funding from Northrop. Thompson
produces a steady stream of pro-B-2 op-ed articles and is regularly
quoted in the press. He also is a regular witness before Congressional
panels, telling one committee in 1997 that the B-2 is a miracle
plane that can "fly anywhere in the world within a few hours,
safely penetrate modern air defenses and precisely destroy up
to 16 separate targets with minimum collateral damage." Such
assurances were given despite the fact that at the time the B-2
had never even been certified as combat ready and had yet to fly
a single mission.
Thompson also put together a letter from seven former secretaries
of defense-Melvin Laird, James Schlesinger, Donald Rumsfield,
Harold Brown, Caspar Weinberger, Frank Carlucci and Dick Cheney-in
support of the B-2, which was used to great effect on Capitol
Hill. "It is essential that steps be taken now to preserve
an adequate long-range bomber force," the seven said judiciously.
"The B-2 remains...the most cost-effective means of rapidly
projecting force over great distances."
On numerous occasions during the past decade, Congress seemed
all but sure to kill off the B-2. Each time, though, Northrop
has managed to fend off the final stake to the heart with a lobbying
blitzkrieg, prompting Rep. John Kasich of Ohio to dub the B-2
the "Dracula" bomber. This, then, is how military policy
is formulated in the late-20th century: Because a company can
mobilize enough lobbying firepower, the American people end up
paying for a bomber that doesn't work, to meet a threat that doesn't