Carter and Arms: No Sale

The Arms Bazaar: From Lebanon to Lockheed

by Anthony Sampson
Viking, 352 pp., $12.95

Foreign Defense Sales and Grants, Fiscal Years 1973-1975; Labor and Material Requirements of Defense/International Economic Affairs

prepared by the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics
distributed by the US Department of Defense, Office of the Secretary

Report to Congress on Arms Transfer Policy from the US Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations

prepared by the US Department of State, limited supply available

The export of armaments is about to become an essential American industry. This is one conclusion suggested by a new study prepared for the Defense Department by the US Department of Labor. The study makes it possible for the first time to understand the economic consequences of the arms boom. Its estimates, put together with other United States government projections, show the military economy at a point of transition in 1977. Since 1973, military sales have changed from a minor to a major source of employment for Americans. The new study shows that in 1975 each $1 billion in foreign deliveries of military sales required the employment of 51,900 American workers. This year the US is expected to deliver $6.8 billion worth of military goods and services to foreign buyers. Some 350,000 people, these estimates imply, may now be working directly and indirectly to deliver military sales.1

Next year the new “industry” is likely to increase the number of jobs it requires to over 430,000. Four years ago it required only 100,000 people. Such growth is unequaled in the civilian and domestic economy. The entire US economy, from 1973 to 1977, produced five million new jobs. Military sales, the new studies suggest, produced one out of every twenty of these new jobs. Military exports already require the services of more people than are at work in eleven US states. It is as though the entire working population of, for example, Nevada were occupied in fixing missiles to Iranian fighter planes and in other tasks of the arms trade.2

The boom in US military sales began in 1973. But the well-known and spectacular figures reported at the time—$10 billion a year or more of “sales” in 1974 and 1975—measured orders, or agreements to sell military goods and services, rather than actual military exports. What is happening now is that deliveries are catching up with these earlier orders. Fighters that in 1974 were a gleam in the Shah’s eye are now steel and titanium, being assembled by American workers and shipped for export. And the process is only beginning. The United States as of last October had a stock of unfilled military sales orders worth $32.8 billion. As late as 1983, US workers will still be delivering arms from this stock of boom-time orders.

It is against this horizon of real life and real work that the Carter administration’s arms sales policy should be seen. For the Carter policy, which has been concerned initially with the morality and subsequently with the foreign policy of arms sales, will succeed only as it influences the political economy of arms and disarmament.

The object of the new arms policy, as summarized most recently by the President, is to achieve “much greater constraint on arms sales,” and to “reduce the level of arms sales in each succeeding year” after 1977.3 On this modest interpretation, the policy is likely to work. Foreign military sales are already considerably lower in the 1977 fiscal year…

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