I n 2011 and 2012, a consortium of defense contractors, military brass and elected officials in Washington State met and hammered out a strategy that resulted in a report called “Retaining and Expanding Military Missions – Increasing Defense Spending and Investment.” This report – a blueprint for military expansion – was written by three Washington DC lobby firms whose clients included Raytheon, Boeing, General Dynamics, military munitions manufacturers, cyber information security firms, and others. Supposedly it was released in 2012, but nobody we know of saw it until 2015.
The acknowledgements page is a Who’s Who of Washington’s elected officials and staffers at local, state, and national levels, plus defense industry executives and military lobbyists, both retired and active duty. While the newly-minted Washington Military Alliance charter says membership is “inclusive,” not one member listed represents the viewpoint of people who question the environmental and public health impacts and economic fallout of unlimited military spending and encroachment into priceless public lands and waters, and the airspace over our communities.
One of the report’s most startling recommendations was to restrict public disclosure: “The State should consider amending the Public Records Act to exempt sensitive military base analysis information that pertains to specific base recommendations. The rationale is based on not sharing this “competition sensitive” information with bases in other states that have similar missions. There is president [sic] for this kind of legislative action as Florida has recently amended their laws to accommodate these type exemptions.”
In other words, the Navy wants the State to weaken a law allowing citizens to learn what the government they pay for is doing, not because of national security, but for competitive business advantage.
The State is supposed to invest local monies in community health and public safety, and to return what’s not spent in the form of lower taxes. But this report makes sure that doesn’t happen. The number of states that are funding military base construction has increased significantly. The rationale? Risking taxpayer ire is easier than risking base closure, because bases are now regarded as “big commercial enterprises.”
The military also wants to put States on the hook to pay for upgrades to bases and the infrastructure around them. This is not small change; we are talking about billions going from states into funding military base infrastructure. It’s likely that communities across the nation that are not near military bases suffer disproportionately when it comes to maintaining and improving infrastructure.
For every $1 spent on troops, $2 goes to the defense industry. If you add up all the components of defense spending – the real total, not counting spending by an army of lobbyists – it is around $1 trillion annually, according to a report by The American Conservative. That’s more than the next eight nations combined.
The Washington Military Alliance represents some of the underpinnings for what’s being called an “Economic Club.” What we really have here is a hybrid, government-endorsed SuperPAC for the military and defense industry in Washington State, paid for by us.
A nonpartisan foundation found that between 2007 and 2012, America’s most politically active corporations spent a combined $5.8 billion lobbying Congress and contributing to congressional campaigns. In return for this, they received $4.4 trillion in taxpayer dollars, which was more than the entire Social Security payout for 50 million citizens over the same period.
This is what a war-based economy looks like. It may also explain why nobody in western Washington who’s concerned about jet noise, sonar, explosives and military combat training on 68 beaches and state parks can get answers or assistance from our congressional delegation or state representatives.
The Olympic Peninsula seems to be the prize in a deal that was made behind our backs. Senator Patty Murray spoke up in February at a Senate Appropriations hearing on behalf of concerns about Army combat helicopter landings in wilderness areas of the North Cascades and southwest Washington. She asked the Army if they were following all the laws and working with local stakeholders. She has never asked the Navy that question, nor have any other lawmakers. Why? How can they look the other way when their constituents are being treated so unfairly? Compared to the Cascades, the Olympic Peninsula and Puget Sound are looking more like a sacrifice zone every day.