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The Companies Behind Drones and Targeted Assassinations

December 29, 2010

The failed U.S. war strategy in Afghanistan is leading the Obama administration to expand the undeclared war in Pakistan. One aspect of this new war is the escalating number of targeted assassinations by unmanned drones. According to the Long War Journal, the number of U.S. drone strikes has risen from 35 in the last year of the Bush administration to an estimated 115 in 2010.

The United States has gone from fighting wars in Afghanistan to launching assassination missions in other countries with tools operated by computer operators thousands of miles away. As Mary Ellen O’Connell states in her comments to my colleague Joe,  the use of drones is in direct violation of international law. According to O’Connell, Congress has so far held only one hearing on this issue and the courts have refused appeals to stop the use of  targeted assassinations even when the individual in question is a U.S. citizen. Newspapers such as the Washington Post applaud this decision.

We at FCNL aren’t applauding.  If War Is Not the Answer in Afghanistan, the undeclared wars that are expanding to Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries are no better. Beyond questioning the policymakers who order these attacks, several people I have spoken with in the FCNL network have suggested that we begin to look at the companies that are making these weapons of war and assassination.

When I asked who makes these weapons, my colleague Matt pointed to the  U.S. Army book “Weapons Systems.” The Army reports that the Hellfire Missiles used on the drones are made by Lockheed Martin (Troy, AL), L-3 Communications (Chicago, IL), Alliant Techsystems (Rocket City, WV), Moog (Salt Lake City, UT), Hellfire LLC (Orlando, FL) and Longbow LLC (Orlando, FL).  Perhaps we ought to start by asking these companies what conditions they place on the use of the weapons to make sure they are not used to break international laws?

You might ask if a community or company ever refuse to do business out of their own faith and practice? Of course. As Arthur Meyer Boyd explained to my colleague Sandy, our FCNL community has chosen not to invest our modest reserves in weapons manufacturers. In my time here at FCNL, I have also learned of at least one company run by Quakers that has refused to sell materials to makers of military equipment. When one of my colleagues asked the former CEO about that decision, he said “Some people say we have been very successful despite our refusal to do business with the Defense establishment. I say no we have been very successful because of that.”

Here at FCNL we are focused on federal government policy. Yet I can see the logic of at starting a conversation with some of the companies that are involved in manufacturing these tools of assassination. I’d encourage others to look more closely at these issues and let us know what you find out.

According to U.S. Army Weapons Systems Handbook (which is available on the website of the Federation of American Scientists), the full list of companies that are involved in making drones (some of which are armed and some of which are not) includes

Aerovironment, Inc. (Simi Valley, CA)
Indigo System Corp. (Goleta, CA)
All American Racers, Inc. (Santa Ana, CA)
L-3 Communications (San Diego, CA)
L-3 Communications (Salt Lake City, UT)
Bren-Tronics (Commack, NY)
Lockheed Martin (Orlando, FL)
Raytheon (Tucson, AZ)
Boeing (St. Louis, MO)
General Atomics, Aeronautical Systems Inc. (San Diego, CA)
AAI (Hunt Valley, MD)
CMI (Huntsville, AL)
Sierra Nevada Corp. (Sparks, NV)
Tecom (Chatsworth, CA)
General Dynamics (Marion, VA)
Rockwell Collins (Warrenton, VA)
CDL Systems (Calgary, Canada)
UVA Engines Limited (Shenstone, UK)

The locations are the plants where the drones are manufactured. I’m told that Friends at one retirement community have already initiated at least one conversation with a company that makes drones. Maybe it’s time to ask tougher questions in our conversations with makers of these weapons?

Here on Capitol Hill, I suspect we will hear more about drones.  In an era of budget cuts and concern about federal budget deficits, some members of Congress are already arguing that these new weapons of war could be a cost effective way to protect the United States while creating jobs in local communities. Congress has even created an “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Caucus” to promote the battlefield use of these weapons. One co-chair of the caucus is the incoming chair of the House Armed Services Committee. We at FCNL will be looking for opportunities to dialog with Congress on these issues.

One Comment
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