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Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex Hardcover – Bargain Price, December 28, 2010

3.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, December 28, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Corporate clout, military innovation, and political influence make an uneasy mix in this smart and thorough corporate history of Lockheed Martin's emergence as the nation's largest weapons contractor. Hartung (And Weapons for All) traces the company's rise from unimpressive military aircraft manufacturer in WWI through its emergence as a major supplier of fighters and bombers for the Allies in WWII to corporate behemoth and power player in setting American foreign policy. The author explores how deeply Lockheed's tentacles have penetrated American economic and political life, pulling the curtain back on decades of unsavory dealings: Lockheed's decision to sell airplanes to Japan in the late 1930s (they were later converted to military use); reports of widespread bribery of foreign executives and politicians; and vengeful retribution against Pentagon whistleblowers. Hartung reveals how the company's adaptability has helped it survive--and expand--even as its reputation became tarnished, and echoes President Eisenhower's argument that the only way to ensure against "military-industrial" abuses is to have "an alert and engaged citizenry." This book is a fine step in that direction. (Jan.)
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From Booklist

Hartung, a frequent commentator on the relationship between government and military contractors, takes readers through the history of Lockheed Martin, a company that began humbly in 1916 and has become a “mega-firm” whose ties to the U.S. government are, at least as presented here, at best ominous and at worst downright frightening. The author, who directs the New America Foundation’s Arms and Security Initiative, sounds like he has a whole arsenal of axes to grind. In his view, the story of Lockheed Martin is a story of shady foreign deals, influence peddling, massive cost overruns, price irregularities, conspiracy, bribery, and shoddy workmanship. He has very little that is approving to say about the company (which, to be sure, is a highly influential and powerful weapons maker), and some readers might wonder if there is perhaps more to the story—a more balanced version—that Hartung isn’t telling. But he argues his case forcefully, and while the book is clearly written from a specific political point of view, it undeniably provides much food for thought. --David Pitt

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Nation Books (December 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1568584202
  • ASIN: B0057DC37I
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,189,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is built around two intertwined themes: a minor theme on the corporate history of the Lockheed Martin Aerospace Company (LM); and a major theme on the workings of what President Eisenhower famously referred to as the "military-industrial complex." This book is not an attack on LM, but uses the aerospace giant as the center piece of an exposition on the inter-action of the Department of Defense (DOD), the Congress, and private contractors in the design and acquisition of defense systems.

Actually the corporate history of LM is interesting enough that one wished Hartung had gone into more detail. In any event it provides enough of a sketchy history to follow how small scale airplane manufacturing effort begun by the Loughead brothers (who latter changed the spelling to Lockheed to avoid having people mispronounce their name) was gradually transformed into the aero-space giant that it is today.

The bulk of the book really is concerned with showing why what should be a fairly straight forward process of a military service buying a weapon system has become such a convoluted and complicated business. Since before its merger with Martin Marietta, LM was primarily an aircraft manufacturer, Hartung provides a lot of examples of USAF procurement practices with the unwritten assumption they are representative of DOD as a whole.

First there is the universal practice of low bidding. That is a contractor will purposely try to win a contractor by offering to produce a system at a much lower cost than what it will actually cost to produce. Once the contract is awarded the cost then can be adjusted upward in collusion with the client.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
NACA, NASA's predecessor, was the "National Aviation Coordination Agency*" according to the author.
This and a few other little slips throughout the book suggest hasty writing and weak editing.
I agree with the reviewers who understand that the problems are more in the overal acquisition process the government uses than any one single company. But the author's visceral hatred of Lockheed-Martin clouds his judgment.
For example: Lockheed's Cheyenne helicopter project was cancelled in the 1960's after building 10 ships and spending a half a billion dollars before finally being confronted with technological issues. This is held up as an example of LM corruption. Yet no mention is made of the Boeing Sikorsky RAH-66 Commanche helicopter that was a textbook example of bad system engineering and requirements creep and was cancelled in 2004 after spending over $5 Billion.
LM's United Launch Alliance partnership with Boeing is shown as some sort of example of LM greed trying to corner the EELV launch market late in the book. But the author fails to note that the ULA partnership was almost dictated by the settlement between LM and Boeing after Boeing illegally won the original award using 30,000 pages of purloined LM documents.
There is only minor reference to Boeing scandals on page 164 about Phil Condit's resignation over insider deals, but no mention of Darleen Druyun or the fact that Boeing was the only company that had some of its executives go to prison.
But what's missing is that the book doesn't really go into describing the process by which contracts are awarded. To read the book, you'd get the impression that the right politician gets a campaign contribution and instantly a company gets a Billion-dollar contract. But it doesn't work that way.
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Format: Hardcover
Muckraking author William Hartung delves into the military-industrial complex with a corporate profile of its largest, most successful beneficiary, Lockheed Martin. Lockheed has survived bankruptcy and lean financial times, and Hartung contends that it has thrived in part through questionable business practices, milking taxpayers of billions and abetting Pentagon malfeasance. Hartung weaves a tale of the interface of armaments and politics, and says alleged Pentagon incompetence benefited both Lockheed and individual states with pork-barrel military projects. This complex, well-told story states that Lockheed eventually garnered $25 billion annually in defense contracts and now plays an outsized role in affecting US foreign policy. getAbstract recommends this book as important background reading about the corporate-military complex, the shadowy processes that may affect policy and in the economic history of the US defense industry.
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After reading this book, which I found to be extremely boring, I have to give Pierre Sprey very high marks for his substantive contributions to the C-SPAN Book interview of the author. My summary of that interview is therefore an important part of my summary of this book. It can be seen at Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog by searching for the two names Pierre Sprey William Hartung without quotes or brackets.

I reduce the book to four from five stars because it is a lazy book--no charts, no maps, just a blast of names and dates and numbers--VERY boring. However righteous, this book could have been much better.


+ 29B per year in revenue from the Pentagon, probably is low number, is not that much.

+ Lockheed grossly exaggerates job numbers and refuses to back them up.

+ Lockheed wins with low bids and the Pentagon acquisition folks are so inept or politically influenced they accept that.

+ Lockheed is the poster child for a broken acquisition system--quite right--that does not make them the bad guys.

+ Lesson learned from U-2: intelligence is irrelevant if it is not used by the decision-makers. Today we spend close to $90 billion a year on intelligence that provides less than 4% of what we need to know, and even then, intelligence for lack of integrity is impotent.

+ Wikileaks is alive and well within the Pentagon, but among authorized individuals who do not leak to the outside. I see that exploding into the public eye in the near future.

+ US Air Force is treasonous for its hatred of honest acquisition officers.
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