The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Darcey Rakestraw,,

From a War Economy to a Green Economy

New Costs of War Research Looks at Military Conversion Case Studies, Worker Surveys

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island

Transferring manufacturing resources from military to civilian use can help avert climate catastrophe, and defense industry workers surveyed support that transition, according to two new reports from the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute.

Building on previous Costs of War research showing that dollar for dollar, military spending creates far fewer jobs than spending in other sectors like education and healthcare, new research by Miriam Pemberton describes how military contractors began spreading their subcontracting chains more widely across the American landscape in the years following the Cold War. While that strategy further entrenched military spending as a priority for U.S. lawmakers by connecting jobs in more congressional districts to military spending increases, these jobs don’t always bring widely-shared prosperity: Of the 20 states with economies most dependent on military manufacturing, 14 experience poverty at similar or higher rates than the national average.

Pemberton looks at two case studies that illustrate how the military can redirect its weapons and technological production capacity towards civilian uses and decarbonize the U.S. economy, given the right policy environment. She concludes: “Military spending must be cut significantly, on the order of the cuts made in response to the end of the Cold War. And a demilitarized industrial policy must redirect those savings toward new industrial activity.”

Furthermore, a new paper from Karen Bell surveys workers in the military sector in the U.S. and the U.K., revealing that while some workers said that the defense sector is ‘socially useful’, many were frustrated with their field and would welcome working in the green economy.

“This was a small group so we cannot generalize to defense workers overall,” writes Bell. “However, even among this small cohort, some were interested in converting their work to civil production and would be interested in taking up ‘green jobs’.”

“Ever-higher military spending is contributing to climate catastrophe, and U.S. lawmakers need a better understanding of alternative economic choices,” says Stephanie Savell, co-director of Costs of War. “Military industrial production can be redirected to civilian technologies that contribute to societal well-being and provide green jobs. This conversion can both decarbonize the economy and create prosperity in districts across the nation.”

The Costs of War Project is a team of 50 scholars, legal experts, human rights practitioners, and physicians, which began its work in 2010. We use research and a public website to facilitate debate about the costs of the post-9/11 wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the related violence in Pakistan and Syria. There are many hidden or unacknowledged costs of the United States' decision to respond to the 9/11 attacks with military force. We aim to foster democratic discussion of these wars by providing the fullest possible account of their human, economic, and political costs, and to foster better informed public policies.