Reaching across the aisle to support Massachusetts’ commitment to militarism
Originally published at The Shoestring
As we head into another election season, one matter—militarism—remains a non issue. Massachusetts has built an economic base around militarism and this base is increasingly reflected in a nexus of the defense industry, universities, and the political system. The issue of militarism often takes a back seat, particularly during election times, to domestic issues like education and health care. When ignored, however, we miss the ways in which militarism infuses our local economy, education systems, funding priorities, and policing system to name a few examples. The American military juggernaut not only destabilizes and causes unspeakable misery abroad, it starves our population of resources better spent investing in housing, education, and actually good jobs. What we’re left with is a quietly bipartisan consensus in Massachusetts that spends taxpayer dollars to support war-related industries. Far from comprehensive, here are some glimpses into the Baystate’s bipartisan support for the war economy.
Massachusetts political leaders from Governor Baker to Elizabeth Warren and Richard Neal are deeply invested in supporting and growing the state’s military economy. Massachusetts is the sixth largest defense contracting state in the country and is home to six military installations. According to Federal government records, Massachusetts received over 185 billion dollars in defense contracts from 2000-2017. And even Northampton, MA, received almost 1.2 billion in defense contracts, the majority going to L-3 Communications which makes lenses and other parts for submarines, tanks (“land systems”), and other war machines.
Massachusetts even has its own task force, created to expand the state’s military presence. In 2012, then Massachusetts Lt. Governor Timothy Murray created the Military Asset and Security Strategy Task Force, to “protect and expand missions, jobs and economic investments at the surrounding Massachusetts federal and state military installations.” Part of the Task Force’s mission is to work with local community actors such as business associations, education officials, and local elected officials to strengthen the impact and relationship between military installations and surrounding communities. This task force is currently co-chaired by a bipartisan-dream-teamcomprised of Governor Baker, Senator Warren, Senator Markey, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, and Congressman Seth Moulton.
Raytheon, however, is the largest recipient of the Pentagon’s largesse in the state, as well as one of its top employers. And it should come as no surprise that the country’s 3rd largest defense contractor (as of 2016) has blood on its (corporate person) hands. Raytheon-manufactured weapons have been sold and used in some of the worst war crimes in recent years and they are one of the largest arms dealers to Saudi Arabia. Investigations have found their bombs in civilian attacks in Afghanistan, and most recently in the fatal bombing of a school bus in Yemen that killed 44 children. Earlier this month a recent report from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project found a 164% increase in civilian deaths in Yemen since June.
Massachusetts now also plays host to nuclear war planning. In 2016, following heavy campaigning by Governor Baker, U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas, and Senator Elizabeth Warren among others, Hanscom Air Force Base was officially designated as the Program Executive Offices for Nuclear Weapon Command, Control and Communications (C3) to be operated alongside MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. The Command, Control, and Communications Center serves as one of the principle location for the development of U.S. nuclear war plans and integrates communication for the 60 individual command and control systems the US operates. The C3 center will play a key role in the Trump administration’s 1.7 trillion dollar plan to build a more modern and ”usable” nuclear weapons fleet. A plan originally introduced by President Obama and quickly expanded by President Trump.
The relationship between the military and Massachusetts higher ed goes even deeper. In April, The U.S. Army Research Laboratory, based in Maryland announced a satellite lab in Massachusetts to produce products and research for use in war. 2020 presidential favorite Senator Elizabeth Warren didn’t miss a chance to praise the Lab’s partnership with Northeast University: “It’s also exciting, not only for the work done here by the Army Research Lab, but also for our nation’s network of universities, university researchers and the innovative work they do,” she said. Adding, “It is this collaboration between universities and our Defense Department and our private industry that really makes us strong and gives us a competitive advantage going forward.”
Warren didn’t stop there. “You can’t do this kind of work unless you have the resources.” She continued,”Our team is committed to getting the resources from Washington here to Massachusetts and into these projects.” Warren, for her part, is on the Senate Armed Services committee and received $28,022 from the defense industry.
Governor Baker, likewise, praised the same partnership, saying, “If you take a look at the arc of all the work that’s been done, which has been spoken about already, on the next generation of supporting warfighters in our military and our national security, nobody plays out of their weight class the way Massachusetts does.”
According to the U.S. Army, the following collegiate institutions in Massachusetts have some type of partnership with the armed forces and their web of contractors: MIT, UMASS (Boston, Dartmouth, Amherst, Lowell), Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Harvard, Boston University, and Northeastern. (It should be noted that Northeastern took heat earlier this year for research contracts with ICE, the state-backed white supremacist terror group.)
The defense industry’s partnerships with higher education is not new—but has ratcheted up as the neoliberal assault on higher education has led to a steady decline in state funding for public education. For instance, since 2007 state funding for higher education has decreased by 9 billion dollars in the U.S.. Private sector and defense industry contracts are in many cases filling the funding gap.
The Baker Administration, meanwhile, partnered with the New England-Israel Business Council (NEIBC) and announced a field trip to Israel in 2016 where the aforementioned nexus of business, academia, and government went to visit their settler-colonial friends in the Middle East. Governor Baker and many of the state’s top executives and business leaders—including military contractors (such as Raytheon), tech firms, and healthcare administrators—visited Israel in order to form business relationships and partnerships between the illiberal country and New England. The NEIBC along with Combined Jewish Philanthropies financed the trip, with no cost to taxpayers. Israeli companies boasted over nine billion dollars in revenue in Massachusetts during 2015, and are responsible for 9,000 jobs.
In Massachusetts it has been seen as political suicide to run for political office while being critical of the state’s connection to militarism. It’s worth noting that many of the same political leaders in Massachusetts pushing for a more militarized economy (i.e. Elizabeth Warren, Niki Tsonga) are ironically also pushing for stronger gun control measures. Yet despite their “progressive” stance on firearms they adhere to the same political gospel that Raytheon and defense industry contracts create needed jobs for the Baystate, particularly when federal funding for infrastructure, education, and healthcare are scarce. This is despite the fact that investment in defense industry spending creates less jobs overall than investments in any other sector.
Regardless of your political perspective we should all be resisting a political system that builds an economy on the production and trade of tools for mass killing. We should also recognize that the more we root our economy in militarism the more we allow the bipartisan-supported-military-industrial-corporatocracy to lead us down a path of normalized and perpetual war, and to dictate, as they have for decades, U.S. foreign policy. Many may already be critical of U.S. imperialism and the 800 military bases the U.S. military operates around the world, while missing the militarism in their own backyard. U.S. Imperialism abroad is tied to U.S. imperialism at home. It’s reflected in local police forces with tanks, immigrant detention infrastructure, eroded democracies, and our state’s propensity for schools that are low in funding but high in military recruitment. Fighting this military juggernaut will be hard – but it can start by resisting the militarism in our local and state economies and challenging the multitude of groups that profit from endless war.
Lydia Wood lives in Northampton, MA and organizes for the abolition of nuclear weapons. Will Meyer contributed reporting.