Defense Statecraft

Monday, April 23, 2018

Mo' Guns, Mo' Problems for the World?

The United States has been the leading exporter of arms around the world for quite some time. Not only has Washington led the race, it has done so by a substantial margin-almost 31% of total sales are from the US, and the next closest seller, Russia, sits at 24%. The drop off after Russia is drastic, with Germany only taking 9%. The difference between Russia and the US seems close-only a 7% difference or so. However, when considering the size of their economies, GDP, and who they export those weapons to, it is evident how much more Russia is reliant on sales, and how important those sales are to Russia’s economy.

            Selling weapons in mass quantities is nothing new, regardless of what administration it is viewed under. Before Trump, underneath the Obama Administration sales continued to grow, and the growth seems to be continuing underneath President Trump. As with past administrations, having foreign governments purchase arms from the US helps show a form of commitment between the two, but it has always been a balancing act between the U.S. defense industry and national security.  One of the major issues and problems is having weapons and arms outlive the original government who bought them. The United States doesn’t want to be going up against its own weaponry, but this has happened-not only in terms of going against their arms, but also against an enemy that was either trained by the US or trained by a US ally that understands their skills and tactics.

            Preventing the arms ending up in the wrong hands and being used to commit human right violations is always a difficult issue that requires forethought and planning, sometimes that it is impossible to be able to accurately predict. This will continue to be an ever pressing and increasingly difficult issue as the US continues to sell more arms to more people underneath the Trump administration. However, it is not only the U.S. that floods the thirsty market, and the problems that have faced administrations in the past will continue to grow in the immediate future.

News Sources Consulted:




Contracting Overreach: Are H&K’s Eyes Bigger than its Stomach?

            German firearms manufacturer Heckler and Koch is burning the candle at both ends.  The company claims to have increased its manufacturing capacity by 100% since being acquired by private owners in 2002, but the gun giant has acquired a reputation for not making any promises to its commercial dealers about delivery times.  This is probably because the company is fulfilling major military contracts with five separate countries—the Americans, British, French, Dutch, and Germans all have active contracts out with Heckler and Koch.

            When the U.S. Marine Corps put in an order for 50,000 Heckler and Koch M27 Infantry Automatic Rifles last year, it raised speculation that the service might be intending to replace all of its M4 carbines with the M27.  The M27 was designed to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and although the M27’s limited ammunition supply created a controversy about its efficacy at sustained suppressive fire, its accuracy and lethality at range has helped it to find success in the hands of designated marksmen in the Corps.  50,000 rifles would just be the first step towards replacing the M4 carbine, though, and with Heckler and Koch USA focusing its new Georgian factory on commercial offerings, the question remains—can H&K handle the role it clearly wants, as the sole source of M27 IARs?

Is it time for another Ike?

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist." - President Eisenhower

Is it time for another president like Ike? Our military budget is exponentially growing every year, while our country continues to deep dive into the $21 trillion + debt.  Across this great nation, our infrastructure is falling apart.  In Flint, Michigan, infrastructure has deteriorated so much that the water is contaminated to the point where water bottles were given out to residents.  American education is no longer the best in the world and teacher's pays are worse than you think.  While the quality of life in America has suffered, the profits of the military-industrial complex (MIC) have skyrocketed since the Cold War.

When will the American public say "enough is enough" and address the massive elephant in the room? The US military cannot sustain the military-industrial complex forever. When a jet or a missile in the government costs 3-4 times the lifetime earnings of an American, the government cannot continue its shopping spring at the MIC Mall. The current national debt divided among US citizens equals to an approximate $64,000+ per citizen when an average US household doesn't even have $5000 in their savings account. This gross overspending on the defense budget that is directly related to the MIC has to be addressed.

The first step to solving a problem is by acknowledging the issue. Currently, a handful mega-corporations hold monopolies on the MIC. Companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman hold the ability to price gauge. These companies have also mastered the art of lobbying with countless campaign contributions and donations to politicians in and out of D.C. Furthermore, the fact that these companies have operations across the country allows them greater influence.

By acknowledging the the existence and influence of the MIC, our country can move forward to a future where taxpayer money can be used to address issues that affect citizens on a daily basis. This is not a call against the military, but a democratic check to balance the current issue the MIC has developed. No country should need to spend more money on their defense budget than 10+ of its allies combined and still feel insecure. Military contracts to the MIC should be more transparent and the current monopolies should be shattered and allow smaller companies access to the market to promote capitalism.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

We Must Adapt

The pentagon must be willing to reconsider the risk of implementing quickly changing mobile device technology, or else fall further behind in a tech race that they may not even know is happening.
There is a false sort of sacrifice opportunity cost calculation going on in the Pentagon surrounding the implementation of new technology, as Fitzgerald and Sander outline in the essay on “Leveraging Commercial Technology”. The sacrifice is the idea that new tech comes at the sacrifice of safety, and safety comes at the sacrifice of new tech. This is in some ways a false opportunity cost, however, as we see perfect examples of top tech companies implementing cutting edge tech in all their security levels and still remaining some of the most secure environments on the planet.
This phenomenon of the reluctance of tablet and smartphone use is just one more symptom of government organizations being reluctant to incorporate new tech, to a fault. Much of the failure to catch the terrorists responsible for 9/11 was resting in the vastly outdated information intake systems that were set up by FBI and local police. All the pieces of information were there to raise enough questions, yet the infrastructure wasn’t advanced enough to place the pieces together.
This is not to say that another 9/11 will happen if the Pentagon is not willing to adapt smartphone technology, but it should be noted that there are significant government failures because of the lack of adaptation to new technology.

History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Wiping Away Tears With Dollar Bills

The importance of bringing new perspectives into the defense industry is arguably more relevant today than it has ever been in the push to produce more innovate technologies and systems. This however brings up an entire new set of issues regarding the ethics of working with or for an industry that may utilize your knowledge and expertise to make weapons that injure and kill. Beyond that, there is also the question of how wars contribute to short and long term environmental destruction. Scientists, engineers, and other experts from various backgrounds that work to solve technical problems involved with military work are becoming increasingly concerned with these questions as modern wars produce greater causalities, specifically civilian casualties. This study conducted by experts in electrical engineering even went as far as to calculate the opportunity cost of weapons manufacturing for things like environmental protection and education.

Every individual has their own personal set of moral and ethical beliefs and there are plenty of reasons to believe that someone involved in the defense industry could use their skills to bring, not only more humanity to the industry, but also smarter technologies that reduce unnecessary casualties. It is unrealistic to assume that everyone involved in this industry does it just for the love of money and destruction. Certainly there are perceptions about the defense industry that have little to no ground to stand on but if those capable of making the world safer are too afraid to get involved then the cycle is liable to continue. This is not only a complex philosophical question but also a question that relevant people in the defense industry should be asking themselves as they look to recruit new talent and procure the next generation of innovations from civilian sources.  

An Unusual Shopping Spree

Are you incredibly wealthy? Are you incredibly bored? Do you feel the need to add odd and unusual weapons to your personal arsenal? Then you have come to the right blog. While it may be difficult to purchase some of these weapons, if done properly all can be attained legally under US law. Spoiler alert: weapons of mass destruction have not yet hit the open market. With that said here are just a few non-traditional weapons a US citizen may legally own.
1.     Cannon
For the history buff. Cannons are classified as destructive devices under the 1934 National Firearms Act. Through proper channels one can be purchased legally but must be registered with the federal government.
2.     Grenade Launcher
For those who really want to blow stuff up. As long as this weapon is registered and background checks are passed these can be legally owned by citizens. However, there are limitations and the most explosive thing you can fire is a flare.
3.     Umbrella Sword
For the spy fanatics. Remember those secret agent movies where the protagonist modified an every-day umbrella into a death machine? As long as you don’t live in New York, Massachusetts, or California you could add purchase one. Don’t expect any new models, the only legal ones are those that are over 100 years. Still, it makes for a nice antique.
4.     Flamethrower
For the pyromaniac. If you have a knack for all things fire you’re in luck. Certain types of flamethrowers can be purchased by civilians but the process can be difficult. For citizens, flamethrowers primarily serve a purpose as a tool in agriculture and firefighting missions.
And there you have it. A few unusual weapons that are legally available to private citizens in the United States. While these are controversial for many it is interesting to see just how far one is willing to go to express their 2nd amendment rights.