Canada should be wary of its relationship to the defence industry, especially in regard to the American defence firm Lockheed Martin, U.S. expert William D. Hartung warns.
Lockheed Martin, the large and powerful weapons manufacturer and creator of the F-35, receives more than $36 billion per year in military contracts, the vast majority from Washington. The company is currently seeking to secure new contracts from the Harper government, especially for the F-35 stealth fighter and Canada’s warship program. The government is currently reviewing their previous commitment to purchasing a fleet of F-35s as the costs of the program have come into question.
Hartung is the Director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and author of Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex. He was in Ottawa on October 1st to make a presentation titled “Prophets of War: Unmasking the Defence Lobby”. The event was organized by the Rideau Institute and the Ottawa Peace Festival.
Hartung noted that while firms like Lockheed Martin lobby government officials under the guise of improving the Canadian economy, they can have the opposite effect, taking billions of public dollars for costly contracts while providing little benefit to Canadians or the economy.
“Lockheed Martin may make bold promises of Canadian job creation with products like the F-35,” said Hartung, “but the fact remains, their priority will be keeping their main customer – the U.S. Department of Defense – happy by providing American jobs – even if they are supported by Canadian weapons purchases.”
Rather than supporting a large defence industry in Canada and companies like Lockheed Martin, as the Harper government is intending, Hartung suggests the government should focus on supporting arms control and disarmament efforts on the international stage, like the Arms Trade Treaty. The Arms Trade Treaty has been signed by over 100 countries, many of which are Canadian allies. Yet the treaty is still unsigned by Canada, even though Canada voted in favour of the treaty in April 2013.
“The recession cut funds across the board, and the defence industry felt this, too,” Mr. Hartung noted. “Defence spending has decreased globally – this is a failing industry. The government would be well advised to aim at controlling the arms industry, rather than investing in defence firms.”
Photo credit: DND