Last Wednesday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with the executives of the largest arms manufacturers in the United States. According to Politico, a Washington based news and opinion website, a spokesman for the Secretary explained that the purpose of the meeting was to assure arms industry executives of the Pentagon's pledge, "to work with the White House to secure steady growth in the Pentagon's budgets over time."
The executives meeting with Gates were no doubt encouraged by the recent news that the US defense budget will grow by more than 11% in the next year. The $708 billion 2010 US defense budget does not include a supplemental $33 billion the Obama administration has requested to fund additional operations in Afghanistan.
Further good news for the arms industry included Gates' signaling that the government will support changes to current arms export control policy. The Arms Export Control Act of 1976 requires governments that receive weapons from the United States to use them for legitimate self-defense and places other restrictions on with whom US defense companies can do business. Another arms export policy, the Missile Technology Control Regime of 1987, limits sales of unmanned drones which are still officially labeled as missiles. Reuters reported that international spending on unmanned drones is expected to double next year to $7.3 billion. Changing arms export policy has been a goal of the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) for years.
Meanwhile, the defense industry can now join all other corporations in endorsing and supporting the causes of candidates for public office thanks to the recent 5-4 decision of the Supreme Court. Senator Russ Feingold said: “Ignoring important principles of judicial restraint and respect for precedent, the Court has given corporate money a breathtaking new role in federal campaigns,” according to the New York Times. Now, corporations can run ads prior to elections on behalf of various causes. Considering that the defense industry can rely on a $708 billion federal defense budget in 2010, it is likely that any candidate running against war and militarism will find himself far outspent by his opponents.