Now a journalist, Naval Special Warfare vet Tom Wyatt examines the life as an anti-disinformation contractor he could have led
The San Diego Convention Center was packed with the defense industry elite. Boeing, Northrup Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, and a myriad of other arms industry salesmen, hungry to peddle their wares. WEST Conference 2023 is billed as the “premier naval conference and exposition on the West Coast.” A collective of military leaders and titans of the defense industry, intermingled in incestuous harmony.
It was a world with which I was well acquainted. After all, I had spent the past fifteen years in the Navy as a Special Warfare Boat Operator, using tools and weapons built by these very defense companies. My call to service came unexpectedly at the tail end of my high school senior year. I left for bootcamp on Valentine’s Day, 2007, and immediately entered the world of Naval Special Warfare upon completion. While the rest of my graduating class received tutelage at universities around the country, mine came by way of the military elite. Over a decade and a half, I received an education in Special Reconnaissance, Unconventional Warfare and tradecraft.
Many of the friends and former colleagues I met along the way now worked for these defense contractors, and perhaps, in another life, I’d be a participant in this conference. As it turned out, I was there as a spectator only.
I watched as a sea of suits and lanyards moved in waves throughout the lobby outside the convention floor. Thousands of exhibitors and participants waited in line to get their credentials, exchanging cards and networking as they sized up the competition. As I surveyed the crowd, I noticed something familiar in the attendees’ faces. There was a look of out-of-place discomfort. Tattoos peeking out of cuffs and collars of the business attire their bodies seemed to be rejecting. It was the look of the defense industry’s freshman class, those who had just made the leap from serving in the armed forces to being arms proliferators.
The conference embodied the idea of the military industrial complex’s self-licking ice cream cone structure. There was no discernable line between merchandiser and consumer, just a single organism supporting itself.
In 2021, the Revolving Door Project released a report titled “The Military-Industrial-Think Tank Complex: Conflict of Interest at the Center for a New American Security,” that trained a troubling spotlight on one of the most prominent defense-minded think tanks.
Categories: State Repression
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