Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Congress needs to take action to prevent a catastrophic war on Iran. De-escalating the current tensions is the most immediate priority. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Congress needs to take action to prevent a catastrophic war on Iran. De-escalating the current tensions is the most immediate priority. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Congress: War Profiteering Is Real. We Need to End It.

Surging stock prices for military contractors gave several CEOs an early payday after Trump’s Iran aggression.

Sarah Anderson

 by OtherWords

The prospect of war with Iran is terrifying.

Experts predict as many as a million people could die if the current tensions lead to a full-blown war. Millions more would become refugees across the Middle East, while working families across the U.S. would bear the brunt of our casualties.

There is one set of people who stand to benefit from the escalation of the conflict: CEOs of major U.S. military contractors.

But there is one set of people who stand to benefit from the escalation of the conflict: CEOs of major U.S. military contractors.

This was evident in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. assassination of a top Iranian military official on January 2. As soon as the news reached financial markets, these companies’ share prices spiked.

Wall Street traders know that a war with Iran would mean more lucrative contracts for U.S. weapons makers. Since top executives get much of their compensation in the form of stock, they benefit personally when the value of their company’s stock goes up.

I took a look at the stock holdings of the CEOs at the top five Pentagon contractors (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman).

Using the most recent available data, I calculated that these five executives held company stock worth approximately $319 million just before the U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian leader Qasem Soleimani. By the stock market’s closing bell the following day, the value of their combined shares had increased to $326 million.

War profiteering is nothing new. Back in 2006, during the height of the Iraq War, I analyzed CEO pay at the 34 corporations that were the top military contractors at that time. I found that their pay had jumped considerably after the September 11 attacks.

Between 2001 and 2005, military contractor CEO pay jumped 108 percent on average, compared to a 6 percent increase for their counterparts at other large U.S. companies.

Congress needs to take action to prevent a catastrophic war on Iran. De-escalating the current tensions is the most immediate priority.

But Congress must also take action to end war profiteering. In 2008, John McCain, then a Republican presidential candidate, proposed capping CEO pay at companies receiving financial bailouts. He argued that CEOs relying on taxpayer funds should not earn more than $400,000—the salary of the U.S. president.

That commonsense notion should be extended to all companies that rely on massive taxpayer-funded contracts. Senator Bernie Sanders, for instance, has a plan to deny federal contracts to companies that pay their CEOs excessively. He would set the CEO pay limit for major contractors at no more than 150 times the pay of the company’s typical worker.

Currently, the sky’s the limit for CEO pay at these companies—and the military contracting industry is a prime offender. The top five Pentagon contractors paid their top executives $22.5 million on average in 2018.

CEO pay restrictions should also apply to the leaders of privately held government contractors, which currently don’t even have to disclose the size of their top executives’ paychecks.

That’s the case for General Atomics, the manufacturer of the MQ-9 Reaper that carried out the assassination of Soleimani. Despite raking in $2.8 billion in taxpayer-funded contracts in 2018, the drone maker is allowed to keep executive compensation information secret.

We do know that General Atomics CEO Neal Blue has prospered quite a bit from taxpayer dollars. Forbes estimates his wealth at $4.1 billion.

War is bad for nearly everyone. But as long as we allow the leaders of our privatized war economy to reap unlimited rewards, their profit motive for war in Iran—or anywhere—will persist.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Manchin Threatening Key Climate Provision: Reports

"To take it out is to decide that climate change isn't a problem."

Andrea Germanos ·


'Make a Gesture of Humanity': Pope Francis Urges Pharma Giants to Release Covid-19 Vaccine Patents

"There are countries where only three or four percent of the inhabitants have been vaccinated."

Andrea Germanos ·


Manchin Fumes After Sanders Op-Ed in West Virginia Paper Calls Out Obstruction of Biden Agenda

"Poll after poll shows overwhelming support for this legislation," wrote Sanders. "Two Democratic senators remain in opposition, including Sen. Joe Manchin."

Andrea Germanos ·


US to Offer 'Condolence Payments' to Relatives of 10 Civilians Killed in Drone Strike

The Pentagon statement follows a call for President Joe Biden to "show real concern for civilians by taking more meaningful steps to prevent civilian casualties as a result of all U.S. lethal operations."

Andrea Germanos ·


New Filing Reveals Sinema Pads Campaign Coffers With More Pharma and Finance Funds

"This is what someone who's bought and paid for looks like."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo