Opening the Floodgates for Profiteers of War

If it passes, the Reed/Inhofe amendment invoking wartime emergency spending powers will give the merchants of death what they are looking for, write Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed in 2019. (U.S. Army, Patrick Enright)

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies
Common Dreams

If the powerful leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK), have their way, Congress will soon invoke wartime emergency powers to build up even greater stockpiles of Pentagon weapons.

The amendment is supposedly designed to facilitate replenishing the weapons the United States has sent to Ukraine, but a look at the wish list contemplated in this amendment reveals a different story.

Reed and Inhofe’s idea is to tuck their wartime amendment into the FY2023 National Defense Appropriation Act (NDAA) that will be passed during the lame-duck session before the end of the year. The amendment sailed through the Armed Services Committee in mid-October and, if it becomes law, the Department of Defense will be allowed to lock in multi-year contracts and award non-competitive contracts to arms manufacturers for Ukraine-related weapons.

If the Reed/Inhofe amendment is really aimed at replenishing the Pentagon’s supplies, then why do the quantities in its wish list vastly surpass those sent to Ukraine?

Let’s do the comparison:

  • The current “star” of U.S. military aid to Ukraine is Lockheed Martin’s HIMARS rocket system, the same weapon U.S. Marines used to help reduce much of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, to rubble in 2017. The U.S. has sent 38 HIMARS systems to Ukraine, but Senators Reed and Inhofe plan to “reorder” 700 of them, with 100,000 rockets, which could cost up to $4 billion.
  • Another artillery weapon provided to Ukraine is the M777 155 mm howitzer. To “replace” the 142 M777s sent to Ukraine, the senators plan to order 1,000 of them, at an estimated cost of $3.7 billion, from BAE Systems.
  • HIMARS launchers can also fire Lockheed Martin’s long-range (up to 190 miles) MGM-140 ATACMS missiles, which the U.S. has not sent to Ukraine. In fact, the U.S. has only ever fired 560 of them, mostly at Iraq in 2003. The even longer-range “Precision Strike Missile,” formerly prohibited under the INF Treaty renounced by former President Donald Trump, will start replacing the ATACMS in 2023, yet the Reed-Inhofe Amendment would buy 6,000 ATACMS, 10 times more than the U.S. has ever used, at an estimated cost of $600 million.

ATACMS Army tactical missile system. (Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons)

  • Reed and Inhofe plan to buy 20,000 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles from Raytheon. But Congress already spent $340 million for 2,800 Stingers to replace the 1,400 sent to Ukraine. Reed and Inhofe’s amendment will “re-replenish” the Pentagon’s stocks 14 times over, which could cost $2.4 billion.
  • The United States has supplied Ukraine with two Harpoon anti-ship missile systems — already a provocative escalation — but the amendment includes 1,000 Boeing Harpoon missiles (at about $1.4 billion) and 800 newer Kongsberg Naval Strike Missiles (about $1.8 billion), the Pentagon’s replacement for the Harpoon.
  • The Patriot air defense system is another weapon the U.S. has not sent to Ukraine, because each system can cost a billion dollars and the basic training course for technicians to maintain and repair it takes more than a year to complete. And yet the Inhofe-Reed wish list includes 10,000 Patriot missiles, plus launchers, which could add up to $30 billion.

ATACMS, Harpoons and Stingers are all weapons the Pentagon was already phasing out, so why spend billions of dollars to buy thousands of them now? What is this really all about? Is this amendment a particularly egregious example of war profiteering by the military-industrial-Congressional complex? Or is the United States really preparing to fight a major ground war against Russia? 

Our best judgment is that both are true.

U.S. Sen. James Inhofe in 2014, during a visit to Kiev. (U.S. Embassy Kyiv, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons) 

Looking at the weapons list, military analyst and retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian noted:

“This isn’t replacing what we’ve given [Ukraine].  It’s building stockpiles for a major ground war [with Russia] in the future. This is not the list you would use for China. For China we’d have a very different list.”

President Joe Biden says he will not send U.S. troops to fight Russia because that would be World War III. But the longer the war goes on and the more it escalates, the more it becomes clear that U.S. forces are directly involved in many aspects of the war: helping to plan Ukrainian operations; providing satellite-based intelligence; waging cyber warfare; and operating covertly inside Ukraine as special operations forces and C.I.A. paramilitaries.

Now Russia has accused British special operations forces of direct roles in a maritime drone attack on Sevastopol and the destruction of the Nord Stream gas pipelines.

As U.S. involvement in the war has escalated despite Biden’s broken promises, the Pentagon must have drawn up contingency plans for a full-scale war between the United States and Russia.

If those plans are ever executed, and if they do not immediately trigger a world-ending nuclear war, they will require vast quantities of specific weapons and that is the purpose of the Reed-Inhofe stockpiles.

Weapons Makers’ Complaints 

At the same time, the amendment seems to respond to complaints by the weapons manufacturers that the Pentagon was “moving too slowly” in spending the vast sums appropriated for Ukraine. While over $20 billion has been allocated for weapons, contracts to actually buy weapons for Ukraine and replace the ones sent there so far totaled only $2.7 billion by early November.

So the expected arms sales bonanza had not yet materialized, and the weapons makers were getting impatient. With the rest of the world increasingly calling for diplomatic negotiations, if Congress didn’t get moving, the war might be over before the arms makers’ much-anticipated jackpot ever arrived.

Ukrainian HIMARS in Zaporizhzhia Oblast in July. (, CC BY 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Mark Cancian explained to DefenseNews, “We’ve been hearing from industry, when we talk to them about this issue, that they want to see a demand signal.”

When the Reed-Inhofe Amendment sailed through committee in mid-October, it was clearly the “demand signal” the merchants of death were looking for. The stock prices of Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics took off like anti-aircraft missiles, exploding to all-time highs by the end of the month.

Julia Gledhill, an analyst at the Project on Government Oversight, decried the wartime emergency provisions in the amendment, saying it “further deteriorates already weak guardrails in place to prevent corporate price gouging of the military.”

Opening the doors to multi-year, non-competitive, multi-billion dollar military contracts shows how the American people are trapped in a vicious spiral of war and military spending. Each new war becomes a pretext for further increases in military spending, much of it unrelated to the current war that provides cover for the increase.

Military budget analyst Carl Conetta demonstrated (see Executive Summary) in 2010, after years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, that “those operations account(ed) for only 52% of the surge” in U.S. military spending during that period.

Andrew Lautz of the National Taxpayers’ Union now calculates that the base Pentagon budget will exceed $1 trillion per year by 2027, five years earlier than projected by the Congressional Budget Office.

But if we factor in at least $230 billion per year in military-related costs in the budgets of other departments, like Energy (for nuclear weapons), Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Justice (FBI cybersecurity), and State, national insecurity spending has already hit the trillion dollar per year mark, gobbling up two-thirds of annual discretionary spending.

America’s exorbitant investment in each new generation of weapons makes it nearly impossible for politicians of either party to recognize, let alone admit to the public, that American weapons and wars have been the cause of many of the world’s problems, not the solution, and that they cannot solve the latest foreign policy crisis either.

Senators Reed and Inhofe will defend their amendment as a prudent step to deter and prepare for a Russian escalation of the war, but the spiral of escalation we are locked into is not one-sided. It is the result of escalatory actions by both sides, and the huge arms build-up authorized by this amendment is a dangerously provocative escalation by the U.S. side that will increase the danger of the World War that President Biden has promised to avoid

After the catastrophic wars and ballooning U.S. military budgets of the past 25 years, we should be wise by now to the escalatory nature of the vicious spiral in which we are caught.

And after flirting with Armageddon for 45 years in the last Cold War, we should also be wise to the existential danger of engaging in this kind of brinkmanship with nuclear-armed Russia. So, if we are wise, we will oppose the Reed/Inhofe Amendment.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace, is the author of the 2018 book, Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of IranHer previous books include: Kingdom of the Unjust: Behind the U.S.-Saudi Connection (2016); Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control (2013); Don’t Be Afraid Gringo: A Honduran Woman Speaks from the Heart (1989) and, with Jodie Evans, Stop the Next War Now (Inner Ocean Action Guide) (2005). 

Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

10 comments for “Opening the Floodgates for Profiteers of War

  1. November 17, 2022 at 21:02

    The War in the Ukraine is the biggest money-maker for the US Arms industry ever. No matter that the stuff doesn’t mostly work. No matter it won’t be available for NATO until long after war is over and the EU collapses. News Forensics has a good article on this. hxxps://

  2. Dr. Hujjathullah M.H.B. Sahib
    November 17, 2022 at 02:47

    The authors show their social responsibility and exercise their journalistic oversight well by exposing the true nature of the Ukrainian “replenishments”. Mulling their analysis proves to us that this entire legislative initiative is overwhelmingly geared to just lucrative “ARM-and-get-on” for the MIC complex rather than panicly driven by any imminent Armaggedon. Still, the Russians are no fools to take it easy on that assumption and run an unwise risk of being caught unprepared. So, what we are mostly going to witness soon are escalations by default; profit-driven in the US and caution-driven in Russia, meanwhile genuine humanitarian causes the world over would continue to suffer !

  3. Vera Gottlieb
    November 16, 2022 at 05:57

    It is no secret that the US has always based its financial well-being on the backs of the industrial/military complex. Money that would be so much better spent to alleviate so many social ills – of which all the people ‘on the Hill’ know very little about or not at all.

  4. robert e williamson jr
    November 15, 2022 at 21:21

    Now what is it I’ve been saying about the two party system and which party is the paid opposition of the other? I guess it depends on who gets caught with which check and when.

    That “flood gate”! It opened long ago and what we see is that unimpeded flow has been steadily rising ever since! Who knew? Seriously, folks come on. With Citizens United the most recent flood gates that opened were those letting unfettered amounts money into a already corrupt lobbyist system. But it didn’t seem to phase the Bill or Hillary did it. Why not?

    As for Ms. Benjaman, Mr. Davies and this “new information” or vital and splendid analysis. You seem surprised Mr. Loeb

    With all due respect , and I do respect and desire to have things verified and we have this here but your seem you may have been clueless Peter. I’m not trying to be mean here at all but we all have to understand we must understand these issues well and ASAP.

    “We all know what is going on and that is to needs to stop”, more of the obvious . Look around digest what you see happening and write your congressman ASAP.

    Some one I knew was a company man at a Freeman United Coal mine, company workers have a different retirement plan than the union miners there. They enjoy having most all major weapons manufacturers in the portfolios and during the first gulf War era every time the U.S. used a cruise missile their stock went up a dollar, now who the hell knows how much they are making.

    This is simply business as usual for these mad men and their lobbyist.

    I’m not sure why this should be a surprise to anyone, listen to either Reed or Imanahoe speak and notice if you see any similarities. Especially in the area of being a tad off in the belfry.

    Now that the dimos have displayed some success in this last election be assured they will roll over for the repugniklans. Seen it before, same ole, same ole! The difference now is that the youth have gotten involved , them and others who held out before now. The threat of the end of planet looming and things are about to get really weird. The democrats would be well advised to wake the hell up.

    Hunter S. Thompson said when the going gets weird the weird turn pro.

    My friends who know I write comments here consider me a “Weirdo”. A protagonist of peace and justice, realizing in order to have peace justice must first be served. With out any formal official justice being served consistently to those in the US government who fail us or justice for absolute law breakers serving as public servants I see little hope for significant change for the better for Americans in the near future.

    What I do see is the opportunity for the young to shake things up. We elders would be well served to remember some things never change and a catalyst of some sort will likely fuel some significant change at some point in the future, who, how, when, what, where I don’t know but the pressure on the young grows intensely everyday. This is their future and they would be well advised to take measures to ensure they have one.

    I’ve grown weary of the obvious being stated: To wit. This evening on CNN the commentator queried his guest, ” Do you think it might be time to work toward making some arrangement to allow Putin to save face?”

    The guess responded, “No! Ah I . . wha wha wha wha wha . . . . ~” I finished my meal and came to my machine here.

    Where I find the comments of Lester, Andrew, Jeff and Peter. I guess I need a break, I criticize, condemn and complain with the best of them but new ideas are needed not more verification of the obvious. I worry sometimes
    about what is constructive and what isn’t when I comment here, or am I mailing it in, that said I’m the same guy who will try my damnedest to get my point across. Rattling Cages as it were!

    This has turned into another long slog and for those who may take issue with me, gimme my forty lashes, it will be more punishment than has been melted out in DC for decades.

    Thanks CN

  5. Jeremy Horne, Ph.D.
    November 15, 2022 at 20:26

    It is not enough to say, ” So, if we are wise, we will oppose the Reed/Inhofe Amendment.”. Anyone who votes for either faction of the Big Business Party (GOP or Dems) is part of the problem and is partaking in the evil that is this whole evil bourgeois system.

  6. lester
    November 15, 2022 at 19:07

    I guess the love of money truly is the root of all evil1

  7. Andrew Nichols
    November 15, 2022 at 17:47

    Sick old ghouls

  8. Jeff Harrison
    November 15, 2022 at 16:42

    Our government is being run by warmongers who will ultimately destroy the US financial system.

    • WillD
      November 16, 2022 at 20:59

      And the world, too. Profits trump reason, common sense and conscience. They simply don’t care what happens to the world as long as they keep making lots of money and rule their empire.

      Greed and Power = Evil.

  9. Peter Loeb
    November 15, 2022 at 15:43

    Deepest thanks to Benjamin and Davies for this vital and splendid analysis. It is extremely helpful
    that the producers of weapons systems be named. With this information one knows which corporations
    and which lobbyists are responsible for this mess. (For additional analysis of how Lockheed’s lobbying
    works, see William Hartung’s classic “Prophets of War”.

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