Corporate entitlement/welfare for the war on terror

Posted in Bioterrorism, War On Terror at 1:56 pm by George Smith

The austerity police like to talk about going after social entitlement programs. And President Obama today made a toady of himself by announcing a pay freeze for federal workers — middle class earners across the board and throughout the country.

However, no one ever speaks about the other big slice of entitlements coming out of the American pie.

That’d be defense contractor spending, which now expands into everything under the rubric of the global war on terror.

One would not expect the arms manufacturer, Northrop Grumman, to be involved in anything connected with bioterrorism.

But it is.

Northrop Grumman, like Lockheed Martin, tries to expand into every corner where there is access to taxpayer money. And it does it all under the sales pitch afforded by the war on terror.

It is good to think of it as corporate welfare for the haves, something that gives virtually nothing back to the middle class.

In this case, it’s the market for bioterror detection. Testing of subsidiary-made sensor networks and devices for detection of bioterrorism has a fine record of failure. The things just don’t work reliably — and there’s no realistic expectation that they should given the complexity of the task.

There is, however, a lot of room for fudging and advertising claims that will never be met.

And the Dept. of Homeland Security is dedicated to pursuing them.

Therefore today’s Northrop-Grumman press release:

LINTHICUM, Md. | The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) a contract to begin field testing a new generation of autonomous biodetection instruments as part of the BioWatch Gen-3 program.

Northrop Grumman was awarded the $8.4 million task order under the BioWatch Gen-3 System Performance Demonstration Contract. The total potential value of the contract is $37 million over three years.

Northrop Grumman will test 12 of the Next Gen Automated Detection System (NG-ADS) units in outdoor and indoor locations in a major U.S. city for several months to determine the readiness of the systems for future deployment. The company will provide autonomous biodetection equipment and technical support, including the operation and maintenance of the units during the course of the field test.

“The NG-ADS technology has the potential to significantly improve the nation’s ability to quickly detect and respond to a bioterrorism event,” said Dave Tilles, director of Homeland Security and CBRNE defense programs for the Advanced Concepts & Technologies Division at Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems sector. “This effort builds on the company’s work to support our customers as they enhance the country’s defenses against potentially catastrophic threats such as bioterrorism.”

Eight and a half million dollars doesn’t sound like much here. But once you start adding up all the outlays for projects like this, spread around the corporate national security infrastructure, you start seeing big money. And almost none of it is innovative. And almost a decade in on the war on terror, not particularly good for the well-being of a country that desires a strong middle class.

It’s money that could be more easily and productively spent on things like teacher salaries doled out to the states, educational opportunities, or public health initiatives.

It is a form of parasitic entitlement spending for a part of corporate America that doesn’t give much back.


  1. João said,

    November 29, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Maybe to be used to detect bioterror attacks using salmonella?

  2. George Smith said,

    November 29, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Sadly, human beings are still the way salmonella is detected. You get sick.

    Sometimes it doesn’t even matter though. When it comes to the egg operations, some of them already know they’re battling salmonella. And they just don’t care and ship the eggs, anyway.

    So even a theoretical world where you could have detectors for everything, it doesn’t matter.