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Profiles in Power: USC’s Board of Trustees; “The War Profiteer”. By Lis

August 24, 2010

USC Board of Trustee, Ronald P. Sugar, was the CEO of the military contracting corporation, Northrop Grumman, from 2003 until 2009. He has been on the board of directors of the Chevron Corporation since 2005. Under his direction, Northrop Grumman became one of the pre-eminent military technology developers in the world. Northrop Grumman and Boeing have a history of competing for lucrative government contracts, and Northrop appears to be taking the lead. Northrop is successfully constructing the most precise and efficient killing machines in existence.

The Wall Street Journal, an authority on these topics, of course, recently reported: “Northrop has staked out a sweet spot in which its warships, highly classified cyberwarfare technologies and the Global Hawk unmanned spy plane will play frontline roles in years to come as Defense Secretary Robert Gates upends Pentagon spending, company executives say.” (Northrop Gains From Pentagon’s Shifts, July 17, 2009). The Global Hawk program is basically an arsenal of unmanned aerial drones operated from thousands of miles away. The drones are often used to target specific suspected terrorist leaders in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. These assassinations are part of a Obama’s assassination policy, which goes beyond even Bush’s explicit policy, where anyone accused of having ties to radical groups is subject to assassination by drone attack. These drone attacks are meant to target specific people, but they end up killing many civilians in the process. On February 21, 2010, a single drone attack in Afghanistan killed 23 civilians. According to a U.N. report, airstrikes caused 60% of the nearly 600 civilians killed by US and allied Afghan forces in 2009 (MSNBC, “Drone Crew Blamed in Afghan Civilian Deaths”).

In June, Northrop Grumman received a $33 million contract from the Pentagon to improve drone technology. They are contracted to develop an unmanned aircraft that can refuel the unmanned attack drones. Carl Johnson, vice president of Advanced Concepts for Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, said in early July that “Demonstrating the refueling of one UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) by another is a historic milestone. It adds aerial refueling to the list of capabilities that can be accomplished autonomously by Global Hawks; it opens the door to greatly expanded operational utility for UAVs.” What a great historic milestone! More operational utility for remotely controlled planes of death and destruction. In addition, the US Navy awarded a $175 million contract to Northrop Grumman to engineer a new class of large-deck assault ships (WSJ, June 30, 2010). Still, there’s more:

  • Northrop Grumman is competing to be the prime contactor for the army’s Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS). The mission of which is to “to conduct reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition operations in support of ground combat units in overwatch and to maintain a persistent presence over demonstrated at-risk areas.” (DefPro July 5, 2010).
  • According to a LA Times article on July 2, 2010, “The U.S. Navy has extended by one year the time its first high-altitude drone will monitor oil shipments and other maritime activity in the Persian Gulf region, according to officials.”
  • Northrop Grumman will receive a tax-exemption from Harrison County in Mississippi for materials they purchased to be used in the gulf before the spill. They will not have to pay approximately $89,000 in taxes, while fishermen in the informal economy will receive little to no compensation. (Associated Press)
  • Northrop Grumman is developing laser weapons – what they call “Revolution in Fiber Lasers” They were awarded a contract to develop this technology in 2008. The company reports that they are achieving their development goals on target. Great! The US already has the weaponry capability to destroy the world many times over, but lasers, of course, are a necessary addition. (The Register, June 24, 2010).
  • A WSJ article from July 17, 2009, “Northrop Gains From Pentagon’s Shifts” reports: “Already, though, it is clear that this is shaping up to be a big year for Mr. Sugar, who became chief executive in 2003. Boeing expects its defense business to post between $33 billion and $34 billion in sales this year, while analysts expect Northrop to bring in almost $35 billion in total revenue. Northrop reported first-quarter profit of $389 million, up 47% from a year earlier, when the company took a hefty charge.”
  • Lastly, Sugar’s message to Obama from Business Week: “The new President needs to ensure adequate support and funding for national security and cooperation with our key allies.” Of course, because it’s money in his wallet.
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