Lockheed Martin and the take-over of the Academy by the corporations: How far should we go?

By: Luis A. Buatois & M. Gabriela Mángano, Department of Geological Sciences, University of Saskatchewan

A total $147 million budget cut for the three councils is under way. In particular, the situation of NSERC has been addressed in a recent news article published by the journal Nature (http://www.nature.com/news/canadian-budget-hits-basic-science-1.10366), where it reads “Canada’s latest budget will slash spending on the environment and push for more collaboration between basic researchers and industry……The budget is the first since the Conservative party gained a majority in parliament last year”. The message is clear. If scientists want to survive at the university, they have to move from basic to applied science. They should be able to respond to the demands of the market by solving problems for the industry right away. One of the questions is “which are the limits?”, the likely answer, “there seems to be no limits at all”.

While the Federal Government retreats, others advance. It is against this background that we have to understand the visit of representatives of the company Lockheed Martin to our campus on April 18th in order to seek collaborative opportunities. According to the official website of the Canadian branch of this company, Lockheed Martin Canada serves the needs of the Canadian Military and Government, specializing in naval combat management systems, including products and service support. With its central offices in Maryland (USA), Lockheed Martin is one of the world’s largest defense contractors.

The company is well known for its involvement in the production of cluster munitions, a type of explosive weapon which scatters sub-munitions over large and imprecise areas. Because of the large quantities used and a high failure rate, a significant number of these bombs remain unexploded, becoming in practice antipersonnel landmines. The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) is an international treaty that prohibits the use of cluster bombs (Canada is a party to the treaty), and Lockheed Martin has been strongly and rightly criticised by the human rights organization Amnesty International because of this. The company has been also under public scrutiny for the production of missiles that are used in the so called “Shock and Awe campaign” in Iraq. “Shock and Awe” campaigns explicitly target civilian infrastructure, including water supplies, food processing, electricity power grids and sanitation, commonly resulting in a large number of civilian casualties. In addition, it is not uncommon that arms manufactured by Lockheed Martin are supplied to non-democratic regimes, who routinely commit human rights abuses against their own populations. Last year, the company was accused of being “involved in violations of international law” in the Middle East by students of the University of Toronto, who strongly criticised their university for having investments in Lockheed Martin.

For potential collaborations, the U of S may choose, for example, advanced active & passive sensing, distributed ISR & attack, and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosives (CBRNE) defense and response, among other potential topics indicated by the company. This doesn’t look right for a center of learning. Do they allow us to use the U of S logo on the falling bombs? Too bad that the Medellin Cartel is out of business; if not, we may have hosted a visit of some of its representatives (in order to provide us with a cleaner face, they may have even told us that Pablo Escobar did a lot of community and social work in the barrios!).

For those of us who have in high regards the central mission of the university as an institution of excellence in teaching, research and outreach, with a strong commitment to ethical practices, it is highly disturbing to see a possible association of the U of S with Lockheed Martin. We are confident that our concerns are shared by a wide spectrum of the university community. It is still time to say a strong “no” to a company that makes money out of the miseries of the wretched of the Earth.

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