Lockheed Martin is the world's largest arms manufacturer. Its primary customer is the U.S. Department of Defense. In conjunction with Bush administration officials, Lockheed Martin was influential in gaining public support for the Iraq war through an NGO called the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. During the war, Lockheed Martin recorded consistent double-digit profits, making $36.3 billion from arm sales alone in 2011.
Pre-War Public Opinion
Lockheed Martin, the world's largest defense contractor and manufacturer of both arms and military aircraft, played a pivotal behind-the-scenes role in developing support for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. In late-2002, public support was declining for the Bush administration's plan to invade Iraq and topple the regime of Saddam Hussein. Administration officials therefore reached out to officials at Lockheed Martin to help reverse this trend. The result was their helping in the formation of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, a non-governmental organization whose sole purpose was to build public support for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Among the committee's members were Lockheed Martin officials and members of Congress, the Bush administration and the military.
Defense Spending and Arms Sales
Arms sales are directly tied to defense spending. The U.S. defense budget in the year 2000 was around $312 billion. By 2011, the final year of the Iraq war (which began in 2003), the budget had risen to $712 billion. For this reason, the Iraq war period was a boon for the private defense industry, accompanied by a 60 percent overall increase in sales for the top 100 arms manufacturers. As the largest of these manufacturers, Lockheed Martin experienced a 47 percent increase in profits during the buildup to the war in 2002, consistent double-digit growth during the Iraq war and $36.3 billion in armament sales alone in 2011. This same year, when U.S. troops were withdrawing from Iraq, Lockheed Martin also led all arms manufacturers in the amount of money it spent lobbying for government contracts with $15 million, a 19 percent increase from 2010.
Arms, Aircraft and Interrogators
In addition to replacing the totalitarian regime of Saddam Hussein with a Western-style democratic government, the U.S. also sought to build up Iraq's military as a counterweight to Iran. This involved the sale of high-grade weapons systems to Iraq, in which Lockheed Martin played a pivotal role. On behalf of Iraq's government, the U.S. Air Force awarded a contract to Lockheed Martin for 18 F-16 fighter jets, reportedly worth up to $3 billion. Outside of arms sales, Lockheed Martin was also responsible for hiring interrogators for the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, as well as for the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, where some Iraqi combatants were held.
Air Dominance In the New Iraq
During the first year of the Iraq war, the president of Lockheed Martin, Dain Hancock, reported that the main lesson learned was the importance of air dominance. Between 2001 and 2003, the number of employees in the company's aeronautics sector increased from 5,000 to 28,000. But of the 187 military aircraft that the U.S. purchased from Lockheed Martin for $77.4 billion during the war, none were ever used for combat purposes in Iraq. In post-war Iraq, there are additional concerns, including from Ambassador James Jeffrey, that continuing arms sales to Iraq may backfire in light of growing sectarian tensions, which could push Iraq's Shiite-led government into Iran's sphere of influence. Kenneth Pollack at the Brookings Institute, however, argues that, given the recession in the U.S. economy -- and the fact that Lockheed Martin alone employs 140,000 workers -- Iraq holds the ultimate leverage when it comes to any future arms sales.