The Arizona Desert Lamp

A military-industrial education

Posted in Campus, Politics by Evan Lisull on 23 June 2009

Javelin MissileWe’ve alluded earlier to the odd love of Raytheon exhibited by leaders at the UA. Now, the UA-Raytheon flirtation has gone to the next level, with a coauthored editorial in the Daily Star by President Shelton and Taylor Lawrence, president of the Missile Systems Division of Raytheon. The hundreds of UA jobs that Shelton and Lawrence cite go towards the creation of products like the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), the AGM-88 HARM (High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile), and the AGM-65 Maverick.

This isn’t to say that Raytheon, by forging the spears, is guilty of Agamemnon’s crimes. So long as there is active demand for missiles (which, with the Obama administration, there certainly is), there will be an active supply. But for an institution that prides itself on striving to “improve the human condition,” there is a noticeable lack of questioning from the university as to whether UA-Raytheon is really the kind of satellite campus they were looking for. All must be sacrificed on the altar of “job creation,” and that includes educational missions.

One also must wonder at Raytheon’s insatiable appetite for government money. The editorial starts with a slobbering paean to the space program, that sole federal program that a majority of Americans have said they want to cut; it ends with the BioSphere, a monument to the juche of FAIL. A full 80 percent of Raytheon’s sales come courtesy of the federal government, a percentage that doesn’t account for money spent by foreign governments – like Saudia Arabia! – for its goods. Amusingly enough, this makes Raytheon more dependent on government spending than the university; and still, by Lawrence’s measure, this is not enough. So the corporatist wheel turns . . .

The editorial itself would be largely forgettable if it weren’t for this waterboarding of logic in the middle of an argument for more state spending:

The vast majority of the $530 million in funding for research last year at UA came from outside Arizona (primarily from the federal government). These funds from Washington are creating jobs in Arizona. By any measure, that is good for our state. Indeed, the most current data for BIO5 and the College of Optical Sciences show a return on investment from research funding of more than 5 to 1. There are not many investments that offer a greater return than that.

In other words: state funding has very little to do with funding research, the same research responsible for jobs. Seeing how Washington is planning on ramping up its spending on education (among a few other things), there thus is no reason for the state of Arizona to do anything but sit on its hands. I suppose it’s nice for Babylon on the Potomac to shower us with ArneBucks, if you’re into that whole “record deficits” thing. It is, however, an irrelevant aside when it comes to the current debate over the state budget.

This UA-Raytheon alliance, which has gone beyond marriage of convenience and into full-fledged lovefest mode, looks askance at both those who believe that the university is a powerful agent of change in the world, and those who think that the school is a country club of peaceniks. In actuality, it is a quasi-independent arm of the bureaucracy, fighting in a typically Nikansenian way to maximize its budget.

Image of the FGM-148 Javelin courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons.


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