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Inside Lockheed Martin’s Sweeping Recruitment on College Campuses

Our investigation found this unfettered recruiting access to be part of a deeper and growing enmeshment between universities and the defense industry.

at many college STEM programs around the country have become pipelines for weapons contractors.

if you’re an engineering student at Georgia Tech, Lockheed is omnipresent.

Reader Supported News, Indigo Olivier/In These Times 14 august 22

To a casual observer, the Black Hawk and Sikorsky S-76 helicopters may have seemed incongruous landing next to the student union on the University of Connecticut’s pastoral green campus, but this particular Thursday in September 2018 was Lockheed Martin Day, and the aircraft were the main attraction.

A small group of students stood nearby, signs in hand, protesting Lockheed’s presence and informing others about a recent massacre.

Weeks earlier, 40 children had been killed when a Saudi-led coalition air strike dropped a 500-pound bomb on a school bus in northern Yemen. A CNN investigation found that Lockheed — the world’s largest weapons manufacturer — had sold the precision-guided munition to Saudi Arabia a year prior in a $110 billion arms deal brokered under former President Donald Trump.

Back in Storrs, Conn., Lockheed, which has a longstanding partnership with UConn, appeared on campus to recruit with TED-style talks, flight simulations, technology demos and on-the-spot interviews. A few lucky students took a helicopter flight around campus.

UConn is among at least a dozen universities that participate in Lockheed Martin Day, part of a sweeping national effort to establish defense industry recruitment pipelines in college STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs. Dozens of campuses nationwide now have corporate partnerships with Lockheed and other weapons manufacturers.

Lockheed is the country’s single largest government contractor, producing Black Hawks, F-35 fighter jets, Javelin anti-tank systems and the Hellfire missiles found on Predator drones. With more than 114,000 employees, the company depends on a pool of highly skilled and highly specialized workers, complete with the ability to obtain proper security clearances when needed. In its most recent annual report, Lockheed tells investors, “We increasingly compete with commercial technology companies outside of the aerospace and defense industry for qualified technical, cyber and scientific positions as the number of qualified domestic engineers is decreasing and the number of cyber professionals is not keeping up with demand.”

Lockheed has hired more than 21,000 new employees since 2020 to replace retiring workers and keep up with turnover. Student pipelines are integral to the company’s talent acquisition strategy.

As tuition costs and student debt have skyrocketed, Lockheed has enticed students with scholarships, well paid internships and a student loan repayment program. When the pandemic made in-person recruitment more difficult, Lockheed expanded its virtual outreach — after one 2020 virtual hiring event, the company reported a 300% increase in offers and a 400% increase in job acceptances among the STEM scholarship program participants over the previous year.

And in a self-described effort to diversify its workforce and build an inclusive culture, Lockheed has also put new focus on financial support and recruitment at historically Black colleges and universities.

Lockheed’s recruitment efforts are intertwined with various types of “research partnerships.” Universities receive six- and seven-figure grants from Lockheed and other defense contractors — or even more massive sums from the Department of Defense — to work on basic and applied research, up to and including designs, prototypes and testing of weapons technology. A student might work on Lockheed-sponsored research as part of their course load, then intern over the summer at Lockheed, be officially recruited by Lockheed upon graduation and start working there immediately, with defense clearances already in place — sometimes continuing the same work. In 2020, Lockheed reported that more than 60% of graduating interns became full-time employees.

Lockheed is not alone among corporations or military contractors in its aggressive university outreach, but the expansive presence of private defense companies on campuses raises questions about the extent to which corporations — particularly those profiting from war — should influence student career trajectories. In April, student and community protesters at Tufts University shut down a General Dynamics recruiting event, then protested outside a Raytheon presentation later that month, chanting, “We see through your smoke and mirrors. You can’t have our engineers.”

Illah Nourbakhsh, an ethics professor at Carnegie Mellon University with a background in robotics, presents the question this way: “If you have a palette of possible futures for students, and you take some possible future, and you make it so shiny and exciting and amazing by pouring money on the marketing process of it that it overcomes any possible marketing done by alternatives that are more socially minded — do the kids have agency? Is it a fair, balanced field?

“Of course not.”

Lockheed did not respond by deadline to requests for comment on this article.

For more than a year, In These Times investigated the presence of Lockheed and other arms manufacturers on campuses, combing through company and university annual reports, IRS filings, LinkedIn profiles, budgets, legislative records and academic policies, as well as interviewing students and professors. Most students requested pseudonyms, indicated with asterisks*, so as not to adversely impact their career prospects. Several spoke positively of Lockheed.

“It’s probably what most engineers, especially in mechanical and aerospace who want to go into defense prospects, aspire to,” says Sam*, who graduated with a bachelor’s in aerospace engineering in December 2021. “They’re one of the biggest defense contractors in this country, so you have the opportunity to work on very state-of-the-art technology.”

Other students believe putting their skills to military use is unethical.

Alan*, a December 2021 graduate in electrical engineering at the University of West Florida who is currently job-hunting while living with his parents, says he’s not looking at defense contractors and is instead holding out for a position that allows him to leave the Earth better than he found it. “When it comes to engineering, we do have a responsibility,” he says. “Every tool can be a weapon. … I don’t really feel like I need to be putting my gifts to make more bombs.”

Located near the world’s largest Air Force base in the Florida panhandle, the University of West Florida regularly hosts recruiters from the defense industry, including Lockheed. Alan says companies like Lockheed set up tables in student buildings to recruit in the hallways.

“I just walked past those tables,” he says, “but sometimes they’ll call you over. It’s kind of like going to the mall, and people want you to try their soap. It’s kind of annoying, but I get that they always need new people.”

Our investigation found this unfettered recruiting access to be part of a deeper and growing enmeshment between universities and the defense industry.

Decades of state disinvestment in public higher education have converged with a growing emphasis on sponsored research, and in an era of ballooning student debt, the billions in annual defense spending prop up university budgets and subsidize student educations. The result is that many college STEM programs around the country have become pipelines for weapons contractors……………………………….

Cameron Davis, who graduated from Georgia Tech with a bachelor’s in computer engineering in 2021, says, “A lot of people that I talk to aren’t 100% comfortable working on defense contracts, working on things that are basically going to kill people.” But, he adds, the lucrative pay of defense contractors “drives a lot of your moral disagreements with defense away.”

In 2019 and 2021, Lockheed was the university’s largest alumni employer, and the company has been one of Georgia Tech’s most frequent job interviewers since at least 2002.

“Even in my field — which isn’t even as defense-adjacent as aerospace engineering or mechanical engineering — companies like Raytheon will have dedicated programs to recruit people,” says Davis. “I’ve been in line with other companies at a career fair and defense contractors literally walk up to me in line and be like, ‘Hey, do you want to talk about helicopters or something?’”

“The corporate presence at Georgia Tech is a little bit overwhelming at times,”……………………………………….

THE MILITARY’S STUDENT RESEARCHERS

Clifford Conner recalls his freshman year at Georgia Tech, in 1959, when the school was still segregated. He studied experimental psychology. When graduation approached, his professors — who also worked in the Lockheed Corporation’s Marietta office just north of Atlanta — said they could help him get a job at Lockheed. Conner accepted.

His work on the wing design of the C-5 Galaxy, then the largest military cargo plane in the world, took him to England, where he began reading a lot about the war in Vietnam. “I wasn’t under the spell of the American press,” Conner says. After a few years with Lockheed, he quit and joined the antiwar movement.

It took him another year to find a job at about a third of the salary he was making at Lockheed.

Conner went on to become a historian of science and a professor at the CUNY School of Professional Studies. His most recent book, The Tragedy of American Science: From Truman to Trump (2020), explores how the STEM fields have moved away from improving the human condition to advancing corporate and defense interests. He writes about the Bayh-Dole Act, which removed public-licensing restrictions in 1980 and “opened the floodgates to corporate investors seeking monopoly ownership of innovative technology.” The law allowed universities and nonprofits to file patents on projects funded with federal money, from weapons to pharmaceuticals. The rationale was to encourage commercial collaboration and underscore the idea that federally funded inventions should be used to support a free-market system.

“After the Bayh-Dole Act, the lines between corporate, university and government research were all blurred,” Conner tells In These Times.

Conner went on to become a historian of science and a professor at the CUNY School of Professional Studies. His most recent book, The Tragedy of American Science: From Truman to Trump (2020), explores how the STEM fields have moved away from improving the human condition to advancing corporate and defense interests. He writes about the Bayh-Dole Act, which removed public-licensing restrictions in 1980 and “opened the floodgates to corporate investors seeking monopoly ownership of innovative technology.” The law allowed universities and nonprofits to file patents on projects funded with federal money, from weapons to pharmaceuticals. The rationale was to encourage commercial collaboration and underscore the idea that federally funded inventions should be used to support a free-market system.

“After the Bayh-Dole Act, the lines between corporate, university and government research were all blurred,” Conner tells In These Times.

Georgia Tech’s applied research division, known as the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), now has four laboratories directly on Lockheed’s aeronautics campus in Marietta……………………………………

 publicly available CVs, résumés and job listings for student researchers at GTRI explicitly detail work on weapons technology……………………………

Unlike Europe, the United States does not provide universities with general funding to support basic research, or “research for the sake of research.” A 2019 analysis by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, for example, notes, “on average, one-third of R…D in OECD countries” is funded by “government block grants used at the discretion of higher education institutions” — but the United States does not have the same mechanism.

U.S. appropriations to public higher education, meanwhile, have declined significantly in the past two decades, while the research environment has seen universities performing an ever-larger share of the nation’s technology research. The Defense Department has been the third-largest source of federal research and development funding to universities for decades (after the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Science Foundation).

But universities also seek out private-sector money to fund research directly, and the defense sector has been a willing donor.

In recent years, Lockheed has partnered with a network of more than 100 universities to advance hypersonics technology — weapons traveling so fast they’re undetectable by radar — and signed master research agreements for multi-year collaborations with Purdue, Texas A…M and Notre Dame in 2021.

While delivering technological innovations to defense companies, these partnerships also double as employment pipelines. The University of Colorado Boulder has collaborated on space systems with Lockheed for nearly two decades. In a statement on the university’s website, one Lockheed executive (and school alum) writes, “Lockheed Martin employs about 56,000 engineers and technicians, 35% of which could retire in the next few years. We must keep up a ‘talent pipeline’ to fill this pending gap: currently, our major source of talent is CU-Boulder.”

SADDLED WITH DEBT

Nearly half of the nation’s discretionary budget goes toward military spending; of that money, one-third to one-half goes to private contractors, according to a 2021 analysis by military researcher William Hartung for Brown University’s Costs of War Project.

Today, 46 million Americans hold student debt totaling $1.7 trillion, which is the projected lifetime cost to U.S. taxpayers of Lockheed’s F-35 fighter jet program — the most expensive weapon system ever built………….

Lockheed is among a growing number of companies that offer student loan assistance to its employees. The company’s Invest In Me program offers incoming graduates a $150 monthly cash bonus for five years and a student loan refinancing program. Every year, Lockheed awards $10,000 scholarships to 200 students that may be renewed up to three times for a potential $40,000. Lockheed also lists 61 universities participating in its STEM scholarship program, projected to invest a minimum of $30 million over five years as part of a larger $460 million education and innovation initiative using gains from Trump’s 2017 corporate tax cuts.

In a 2015 survey by American Student Assistance, 53% of respondents said student debt was either a “deciding factor” or had a “considerable impact” on their career choice.

“Pushing people into higher education has been our labor policy,” explains Astra Taylor, a writer, filmmaker and co-founder of the Debt Collective, a debtors’ union with roots in Occupy Wall Street. “You’re indebting yourself for the privilege of being hired, and it gives companies this economic power because then they can say, ‘We can help relieve some of the economic pain that you’ve incurred to make yourself appealing to us.’”

Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Boeing all provide some form of student aid, such as scholarships and tuition reimbursement.

DIVERSIFYING WEAPONS MAKING

The private defense sector targets much of its financial support toward historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and students from minority groups as part of stated efforts toward workforce diversity and promoting STEM jobs among a demographic that is critically underrepresented in STEM fields. Lockheed’s website and annual report note that minority groups are the “fastest-growing segment in the labor market” and that recruitment through “internships, early talent identification, outlying educational programs, co-ops, apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships” is integral to building diverse employee pipelines.

This trend stirs up old controversies around military recruiting in communities of color.

 The Army has long targeted minority-majority high schools and HBCUs with its Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs and scholarships, to the extent that critics refer to it as a school-to-soldier pipeline. Without enlisting and the ensuing funding, many students wouldn’t receive a higher education. According to a 2016 report from the Brookings Institution, Black students hold an average of $7,400 more in student debt than their white counterparts upon graduating — a gap that widens to nearly $25,000 four years later. The Army leverages students’ predicaments to meet its recruiting goals.

Regardless, “the racial implications” of U.S. military actions “are hard to evade,” civil rights activist and Rep. John R. Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) said at the outset of the Iraq War in 2003. “Would this be happening to [the Iraqis] if they were not nonwhite?” A Gallup poll at the time found 7 in 10 Black Americans opposed the war, while 8 in 10 white Americans favored it.

……………………………… Lockheed has started STEM education and recruiting initiatives at 20 minority serving institutions (MSIs), including 16 HBCUs. Of Lockheed’s 2021 scholarship recipients, 60% identified with a minority racial or ethnic group. In the 2020 to 2021 academic year, more than 40% of Lockheed’s early-career hires identified as people of color, with 450 coming from MSIs.

“Students who work in these spaces don’t know the gravity — are systematically made ignorant of the gravity — of participating in these systems,” says Myers……………………………………..

“You said that the CEO was an advocate for women and minorities,” a student organizer says during a recruitment presentation. “How does she maintain that role as head of a company that produces weapons which bomb and kill women and children in places like Palestine, Yemen, Libya and the Middle East?”

The recruiter responds: “I have no idea.”

MONEY TALKS

Ultimately, Lockheed’s deep reach into higher education reflects national priorities.

Since 9/11, the United States has spent $8 trillion on war. In 2020, for the first time, federal funding to Lockheed surpassed that of the U.S. Department of Education, the federal agency tasked with dispensing scholarships and Pell grants. Biden requested $813 billion in defense spending for fiscal year 2023, which includes the largest-ever allocation for research and development.

“Of course it’s the defense industries that have the ability to offer these favorable terms to people, because they’re also parasites on the public purse,” Astra Taylor says. “If these students weren’t worried about the cost of college, would they be as apt to take a job at a defense contractor versus doing something else in their community?”

Conner doesn’t fault students for taking jobs in the defense industry. “[They] realize that if they’re going to get a job when they graduate, it’s going to be at one of these places. And they can protest all they want, but they’ve got to be the spearpoint of a larger protest that involves the whole society.”

https://www.rsn.org/001/inside-lockheed-martins-sweeping-recruitment-on-college-campuses.html

August 16, 2022 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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