The Real Rogues

Behind the Star Wars missile defense system

by Kevin Martin, Rachel Glick, Rachel Ries, Tim Nafziger, and Mark Swier

Z magazine, September 2000


Like a bad sequel, the proposed Star Wars missile defense system has come back to dominate the national security debate this election year. This is not Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the failed scheme to build an anti-missile shield to protect the U.S. from a massive nuclear attack by the now-defunct Soviet Union. What's being proposed now under the name National Missile Defense (NMD) is a Son of Star Wars, a more modest version meant to protect against a limited attack by "rogue states" armed with just a few nuclear missiles or an accidental missile launch by Russia.

Much of the debate has centered on money: should we deploy the very expensive or the extremely expensive version? In recent months, as allegations of testing fraud have come to light and another Star Wars missile test failed, the debate has broadened. Many policy-makers and mainstream media pundits are now suggesting the system is not ready, and President Clinton, due to decide this summer or fall on whether to move forward with deployment of NMD, should leave that call for his successor to make.

Yet one crucial area has not been discussed: the real rogues-military corporations-driving the Star Wars deployment decision. To understand their role, one must first look at the arguments against Star Wars.

Star Wars won't work: Independent physicists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Union of Concerned Scientists have analyzed the Star Wars radar system and concluded it will not be able to distinguish actual warheads from decoys, chaff, and other countermeasures an attacker would employ to confuse or overwhelm the system. Star Wars testers tacitly acknowledge this-their tests involve a single Mylar balloon decoy instead of the dozens or hundreds they would surely face in an actual attack. Even with the tests rigged to succeed two out of three tests have failed. The third "succeeded" by a fluke when the interceptor missile honed in on the decoy balloon which just happened to be in the path of the mock warhead.

Recognition that the Star Wars system is not viable is growing. Just before the most recent missile test, 50 Nobel Prize-winning scientists signed a letter to President Clinton urging him to reject Star Wars deployment. In June, 53 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter calling on the FBI to conduct an investigation of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) over allegations of fraud in the Star Wars testing program. Unfortunately, in what's likely to be the definitive Congressional vote on Star Wars this year, the Senate rejected Senator Dick Durbin's (D-IL) amendment to force the Pentagon to conduct more realistic tests, featuring more decoys and countermeasures, and establish an independent panel to review test results. The vote was almost entirely along party lines, with Republicans voting overwhelmingly to kill the amendment.

Star Wars is outrageously expensive: Even by the standards of the military, the Star Wars price tag is stupefying. Since the early 1950s, the country has spent over $100 billion on ballistic missile defense, $70 billion of it since Reagan's SDI proposal, with next to nothing to show for it. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the current Star Wars plan at $60 billion, but a more robust land-, sea- and space-based scheme favored by many Republicans would cost more on the order of $240 billion. All of that is before the inevitable delays and cost overruns.

Star Wars will re-start the Nuclear Arms Race: Russia has clearly stated that its ratification of the START II arms reduction treaty, which would retire several thousand missiles, would be nullified if Clinton opts to deploy Star Wars without Russia's consent. Even worse, Russia has threatened to beef up its offensive nuclear capability, possibly including a return to multiple warhead missiles.

China has fewer than 20 1950s-era nuclear-armed missiles, and it worries a U.S. Star Wars system could thwart its deterrent force.

China could go to over 200 modern missiles much more quickly and cheaply than the U.S. could deploy a missile defense system. Should China do this, India and then Pakistan would likely feel compelled to respond in kind, exacerbating the already tense and potentially disastrous nuclear arms race in South Asia. As French President Jacques Chirac-no nuclear dove but an opponent of Star Wars-has stated, "If you look at world history, ever since men began waging war, you will see that there's a permanent race between the sword and the shield. The sword always wins. The more improvements that are made to the shield, the more improvements are made to the sword."

Russia and China are also concerned that Star Wars will not be a mere "defensive" system, but could be part of a U.S. first strike strategy. As U.S. military strategists constantly point out, capabilities rather than intentions should drive defense planning. The proposed Star Wars system could provide the U.S. with an offensive, first-strike capability by rendering harmless Russia's or China's retaliatory capacity. The rational response by these countries would be to increase their offensive nuclear forces.

Threat from "rogue states" is wildly overstated: In the past few years, the State Department's "rogue state"-recently changed to "states of concern"-doctrine has become the centerpiece of the argument for Star Wars. The intelligence community, in an extreme worst-case scenario, cites North Korea as the most immediate threat, possibly having ballistic missiles by 2005. In reality, North Korea has frozen its missile testing program for nearly two years.

Moreover, during a recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korean leader Kim Jong II agreed to completely end his country's missile development program if other countries would send up its satellites. This offer came shortly after Kim's historic summit meeting with South Korean President Kim Dae Jung, which resulted in real prospects for reconciliation between the two Koreas.

In Iran, a new leader is working to reform the country towards a more democratic and free path, and the U. S. and Iran have been improving low-level cultural and economic relations. The third "rogue state," Iraq, is so devastated by ten years 0 U.S. sanctions and bombing it cannot maintain it sewer systems, let alone build an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. None of these "rogue states" have ever flight-tested an ICBM.

It really isn't "rogue nations" that are driving the rush to deploy a Star Wars "missile defense" system that won't work, will cost a large fortune, and will re-ignite the arms race. The Star Wars profiteers-Boeing, Lockheed Martin, TRW and Raytheon, that together accounted for 60 percent of all missile defense contracts in the last two years-constitute the real Rogues Gallery.

Boeing Corporation

Boeing Corporation, the "Lead System Integrator" or main contractor on Star Wars, is responsible for ensuring that all component NMD parts and systems are developed and integrated successfully. A $14 billion taxpayer-subsidized purchase of McDonnell Douglas in 1997 made Boeing the country's second largest war profiteer and NASA's top contractor. Boeing is also the nation's largest exporter with over half its annual sales of military and civilian aviation equipment crossing international borders.

Boeing has a long history of corporate criminality. In 1974, Boeing settled out of court with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) over payments of $54 million made to 18 countries that subsequently brought Boeing aircraft sales to $943 million. At the time, Boeing claimed that the fees were legitimate as commission or consulting fees. In the complaint filed by the SEC, Boeing was accused of "employing devices, schemes, and artifices to defraud, making untrue statements of material facts and omitting to state material facts." At this time the SEC also alleged that Boeing spent at least $27 million paying off 7 foreign governmental officials who were involved with their aircraft sales.

Boeing admitted to bribing foreign officials in the 1970s and 1980s but then returned to claiming its innocence in the l990s even after a former employee, Assistant Navy Secretary Melvyn Paisley, was convicted in the massive III Wind weapons contractor scandal. Boeing, Raytheon, Hughes, and other contractors conspired to rig bids to win Pentagon contracts. Paisley was found guilty of bribery, improper contracts, and diverting contracts to a firm he secretly controlled.

In 1994, Boeing agreed to fork over close to $75 million in order to avoid criminal prosecution which, at that time, was the largest non-criminal Pentagon payback case in history. According to government statements, Boeing's settlement included $52 million for overcharging computer-related work, $14 million for overcharging on non-domestic government work, and $9 million for hazardous-waste disposal costs. This year Boeing has been sued by the Justice Department for allegedly concealing a subcontractor's billing fraud totaling "millions of dollars in fraudulent costs."

Boeing has also been charged with knowingly selling the Army defective parts and overcharging the Air Force thousands of dollars for minor supplies. In 1989, Boeing settled for $11 million on one such charge. This summer, the Justice Department is seeking $20 million in damages for improper installation of parts on the AH-64A Apache helicopters.

Lastly, Boeing's record of employee treatment is simply miserable, running the gamut of labor transgressions. In 1998, Boeing began a lay-off cycle which to date has cost more than 20,000 workers their jobs. Since the 1980s, employees have filed a fairly steady stream of lawsuits complaining of the effects of toxins in their work environment, but few of these cases ever make it to court.

A racial discrimination suit was settled for $15 million last November. In this suit, which represented 12,000 current and 7,000 past African-American employees, Boeing was accused of hostile treatment and promoting less-qualified white employees. The U.S. Labor Department, which investigated the case, accused Boeing of interference by denying inspectors access to necessary records.

Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin is responsible for building the NMD Payload Launch vehicle and components of the Space-Based Infrared System. The largest war contractor in the world, Lockheed Martin rakes in about $18.5 billion in annual Department of Defense (DoD) contracts, making it the top Pentagon contractor as well.

Like many mega-corporations, Lockheed claims to make decisions based on high moral principles. The company website lists six ethical principles by which they supposedly do business: honesty, integrity, respect, trust, responsibility, and citizenship. An examination of the company's record reveals quite different principles:

* Principle 1: Contract violations-In May, a $4.25 million settlement agreement was reached between the Government and Lockheed Martin Naval Electronics and Surveillance Systems. Lockheed Foreign Military Sales (FMS) funds were improperly used while performing a FMS contract with Egypt to upgrade four sonar systems used by the Egyptian military.

* Principle 2: Foreign Corrupt Practices- Lockheed was convicted of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) during the sale of three cargo planes to Egypt in 1993 and was fined a total of $24.8 million.

* Principle 3: Conspiracy and Retaliation-In 1996, Lockheed was sued by a former employee who alleged a conspiracy to prevent him from testifying during the 1993 FCPA trial mentioned above and then retaliated against him by firing him after he testified.

* Principle 4: Bribery-Lockheed documents were subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles last year during an investigation into a possible kickback payment to a consultant on a 1990 sale of air defense radar to Taiwan. This is the latest in a history of bribery and kickbacks dating to the late 1970s when Lockheed admitted to paying $22 million in bribes to win contracts overseas.

* Principle 5: Racism-This year, workers at Lockheed's plant in Marietta, Georgia, filed a lawsuit charging Lockheed with racial and other forms of discrimination. The workers claimed that corporate officials systematically passed over the group of mostly black workers for promotions, discriminated in pay, and fostered a hostile work environment. In one case a worker whose supervisor was a member of the Ku Klux Klan with his robes openly displayed in the office, was forced to get a pass to go to the restroom and had to be escorted there. In another case a worker found a hangman's noose in his workplace. The case is still pending.

* Principle 6: Payoffs for Layoffs-When Lockheed merged with Martin Marietta in 1995 they used U.S. taxpayer money to fund the $1 billion cost of plant shutdowns and employee relocations and then fired 19,000 taxpaying workers. During the same merger, the two companies rewarded their top officials with $31 million in federal money, one-third of the total bonus package they gave themselves.

Finally, as a special ministry to the underprivileged citizens of our country, Lockheed's second most significant business after weapons peddling is management of for-profit state welfare departments and private prisons.


According to its website, TRW has been involved in missile defense research for over 50 years. TRW is the lead innovator of what it calls the "center of the National Missile Defense system," the Battle Management Command, Control and Communications (BMC3) system, which integrates the computer systems that are supposed to differentiate between nuclear warheads and Mylar decoy balloons. As the record of the first three tests indicates, the BMC3 system has been a complete failure.

Even more disturbing, this year former TRW senior engineer Nira Schwartz blew the whistle on her former employer, stating publicly that TRW blatantly lied about rampant test result failures to the DoD. "It's not a defense of the United States," said Dr. Schwartz. "It's a conspiracy to allow them to milk the government. They are creating for themselves a job for life." Indeed, all the "big four" contractors see Star Wars as a Golden Goose that will secure lucrative contracts and boost their sagging stock prices. Schwartz has filed a lawsuit against TRW, which is pending.

TRW has been the target of numerous false claims suits and anti-trust lawsuits, including one in 1984 when TRW was forced to pay the government $17 million to compensate for overcharges. Most recently, in 1998 the Justice Department joined former senior TRW financial executive Richard Bagley in a lawsuit against TRW for defrauding the government of over $50 million on various space contracts throughout the 1990s. Not coincidentally, "at a time when we continue to see wrongdoing by large defense contractors and their executives, the defense industry is approaching Congress to water down the False Claims Act," said Bagley's attorney Eric Havian. "Their proposed amendments would make it almost impossible to bring cases such as [this]."


Raytheon's pieces of the Star Wars pie include the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) and X-radar. These are key NMD components. The EKV is the interceptor that's supposed to destroy the incoming missile, and the X-radar system is supposed to find the EKV's target by discriminating between real warheads and decoys.

Like most military contractors, Raytheon knows how to throw its political weight around through large campaign contributions and a full-time lobbying staff of 19 people. And like its fellow rogues, Raytheon has an extensive record of illegal and unethical conduct. The company has been involved in civil suits concerning labor law violations, civil false claims violations, fraud, and at least one criminal violation:

* Spying and stealing documents from rival corporations: A May 1999 Reuters report revealed that Raytheon "will pay $3 million to a competitor, AGES Group, and purchase $13 million worth of AGES aircraft parts to settle allegations that a security firm hired by Raytheon

* Military eavesdropped on and stole documents from AGES." This happened after AGES Group won a government contract that had been held by Raytheon.

* Bribery: In November 1995, transcripts from a wiretap of Julio Cesar Gomes dos Santos, a special envoy to the Brazilian President Fernando Enrique Cardoso, indicated that Raytheon's lobbyists may have bribed a Brazilian senator to gain backing for a $1.4 billion radar project.

* False Claims: In October 1994, Raytheon Co. paid $4 million to settle a U.S. government claim that the company inflated a defense contract for antimissile radar.

* Securities Fraud: According to a complaint filed last year by the law firm of Pomerantz, Haudek, Block, Grossman & Gross, Raytheon and two of the company's senior officers allegedly failed to disclose in its financial statements that it was violating Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) by engaging in a systematic contract "acceleration" policy, under which the company was prematurely recording revenue on contingent sales contracts prior to actual performance.

It is these war profiteer corporations, not small, impoverished Asian and Arab countries on the other side of the world, that are the real rogues driving the rush to deploy a Star Wars missile system. Their massive collective rap sheet has no affect on their ability to push their agenda through Congress. Together, these rogue corporations have spent about $40 million on campaign contributions and lobbying expenses over the past three years to ensure that multi-billion dollar weapons contracts for Star Wars and other military programs will keep coming.

The only way to bring about real national (and global) security, free from the threat of nuclear holocaust is to work towards global nuclear abolition. This year the U. S. reaffirmed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, which obliges the nuclear powers to achieve global nuclear disarmament. Unfortunately, the military contractors that are pushing Star Wars are also responsible for maintaining the United States' massive nuclear arsenal. As long as the interests of these corporations are put ahead of the interests of the people, the United States, along with the rest of the world, will move towards an increasingly unstable and militarized world. z


Kevin Martin is the director of Project Abolition, a coalition of seven U.S. peace and disarmament organizations. Rachel Glick, Rachel Ries, Tim Nafziger, and Mark Swier are program assistants for Project Abolition.

Index of Website

Home Page