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Report: Weapons industry pocketed at least $4.4 trillion since 9/11

Military contractors may have even ended up with as much as one-half of the Pentagon’s $14 trillion allocation from Congress.

A new report released on Monday has found that as much as half of the Pentagon’s combined budgets from FY2001 to FY2020 — which amounted to about $14 trillion — went to the military contractors. 

The Center for International Policy’s Bill Hartung, in coordination with Brown University’s Costs of War Project, says that of that $14 trillion, “$4.4 trillion went for weapons procurement and research and development (R&D), categories that primarily benefit corporate contractors.” But that figure is a low-end estimate, as the report explains: 

The $4.4 trillion figure is a conservative estimate of the pool of funding Pentagon contractors have drawn from in the two decades since 9/11. The Pentagon’s massive budget for operations and maintenance (O&M) also subsidizes contractors, but it is harder to determine what share of this category goes to private firms.

The report also found that of that $4.4 trillion, the top five weapons firms — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman — received about half, at $2.1 trillion in Pentagon contracts. That finding roughly lines up with another recent estimate from Stephen Semler, co-founder of the Security Policy Reform Institute. 

To put these numbers into perspective, Hartung singled out what the Pentagon doled out to Lockheed Martin during FY2020 — $75 billion. By comparison, the State Department and USAID’s combined budgets for that year was just $44 billion. 

Hartung also notes that Pentagon contractors spent upwards of $2.5 billion lobbying Congress during the same time period. Indeed, the top five companies accounted for just about half that total. Responsible Statecraft’s Eli Clifton recently noted that their investment yielded quite a return, as those top five firms “earned $1,813 in Pentagon contracts for every dollar spent on lobbying.”

The report adds that these staggering figures were in part fueled by corruption. “Numerous companies took advantage of wartime conditions—which require speed of delivery and often involve less rigorous oversight—to overcharge the government or engage in outright fraud,” a report summary noted. “In 2011, the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan estimated that waste, fraud and abuse had totaled between $31 billion and $60 billion.”

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