Franklin C. Miller delivering a 2015 speech titled “The New Cold War.”
The Trump Administration’s release of its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) in early February alarmed many people because it points towards a heightened weaponization of nuclear armaments with its call for more “low-yield” options – or, lower-level nuclear weapons that could more conceivably be used in war. Having these weapons – which increases nuclear “flexibility,” in Pentagon parlance – makes the use of the weapons more likely.
The NPR also renews the call for massive investments to “modernize” the US nuclear stock. All told, the cost could be $1.2 trillion over the next three decades. And all this, it should be added, while an erratic President stands at the helm of the US nuclear arsenal, being closely advised by the hawkish voices of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.
This all but ensures that, for now, the threat of nuclear war – a terrifying and insane prospect – is on the rise. The Washington Post commented: “The strategy marks a resounding win for backers of the U.S. nuclear enterprise and a setback for disarmament advocates.”
But it’s not just Trump’s macho posturing that is creating this situation. His call for nuclear modernization stands in continuity with the policy of the Obama administration. Indeed, the New York Times stated that “there is little question that Mr. Obama paved the way for the modernization policy”- though Trump is escalating things by moving forward on the production of low-yield nuclear missiles and a growing rejection of a no first use nuclear policy.
The nuclear weapons complex is a central pillar of the wider military industrial complex, gobbling up hundreds of billions of dollars and feeding funds into the navy and air force. Many people have a vested interest in sustaining and increasing nuke spending – indeed, they personally profit from the industry. And a little-noted fact is that an important nuclear weapons profiteer who is dedicated to the nuclear industry has had the ear of the Trump administration – and more, he helped with the making of Trump’s nuclear policy review.
His name is Franklin C. Miller, and he’s been repeatedly cited in the media as an advisor to the Trump administration on nuclear policy. Now a consultant with the Scowcroft Group, Miller is a longtime revolving door figure who has made a career – and likely a small fortune – pushing a hawkish nuclear policy. An August 27th New York Times article cited Miller as a Pentagon advisor and quoted him defending the production of nuclear tipped missiles. Another article published shortly after the release of Trump’s NPR described Miller as “an informal consultant to Pentagon officials who drafted the new policy.” More recently, RealClearDefense posted an op-ed by Miller that defended the NPR he advised on.
Miller is a member of the Defense Policy Board, an advisory committee to the Pentagon. But far from an impartial advisor, Miller has longtime, close ties to nuclear and others weapons’ manufacturers as a lobbyist, consultant, and board member. Indeed, he is cozy with some of the very companies – such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon – set to make billions in profits off of Trump’s nuclear plan. As a former board member of a Lockheed subsidiary, Miller may very well own Lockheed stock and be set to profit himself off of the company’s success. He recently served or currently serves as a director of two major players in the nuclear weapons complex – Sandia National Laboratories and Draper Laboratory – at the same time he advises on Trump’s nuclear policy.
Miller has also long been part of a bellicose, neoconservative milieu – embedded in a range of boards, think tanks, and firms that are supported by the defense industry – that advocates for a more aggressive nuclear policy.
More broadly, Franklin Miller is a window into the larger universe of the military-industrial complex. He is a walking case study of the revolving door problem, bringing serious conflicts of interest into his advisory role at the Pentagon. His career shines light on the cross pollination between defense corporations, the government, the armed forces, think tanks, and lobbyists and consultants that makes up the military-industrial complex.
From Pentagon Official to Defense Industry Lobbyist & Consultant
In 2005, Miller retired from a long and distinguished Pentagon career – which he wasted no time cashing in on.
Miller worked for 31 years in government, with 22 of those years at the Defense Department. His Pentagon career was closely tied to nuclear armaments – according to one source, “he had unusual influence on the evolution of national deterrence and nuclear targeting policy” during his career. From 2001 to 2005 he worked for George W. Bush as a Special Assistant and as Senior Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control on the National Security Council staff. Miller was a key figure that shaped many areas of Bush’s defense policy. He had a hand in the disastrous Iraq War that included “coordinating interagency support” of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Miller built a distinguished career, earning a host of prestigious awards from government and defense agencies. He was even awarded an honorary knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in December 2006 “in recognition of his many contributions to U.S.-U.K. relations during his decades of government service.”
And then, when he retired in 2005 after years of celebrated public service and government experience, Miller became a corporate lobbyist.
The Cohen Group
Miller joined the Cohen Group in 2005 and remained with it for five years. The firm was started by former Bill Clinton defense secretary William S. Cohen and its lobbyists include a number of former government officials. The firm specializes in lobbying the federal government on military issues, with clients that include General Dynamics, DynCorp, and HoneyWell.
In 2006, Cohen was profiled by the Washington Post as a classic revolving door, public-official-turned-private-profiteer. Like Cohen, Miller was ready to tap his Pentagon connections to cash in for himself and huge defense industries. An April 2005 filing, for example, shows that Miller registered as a lobbyist immediately after retiring from public service, and that he lobbied the high-up position that he worked with just months before on behalf of a biotechnology company.
Throughout his half-decade tenure with the Cohen Group, Miller constantly lobbied the Defense Department – his old stomping grounds – on behalf of a range of of defense industry corporations, including Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation, Alion Science and Technology Corporation, Marshall Aerospace, Nour USA, and Pro2Serve. The teams that Miller was part of raked in hundreds of thousands of dollars for the firm. Miller also lobbied the Defense Department and other entities in 2008 and 2009 for Alticor, the parent group of AmWay, which is co-owned by the family of Betsy DeVos family.
But Miller’s most notable client was Lockheed Martin, who he lobbied for in 2007 and 2008. A 2008 filing shows, for example, that Miller lobbied the Defense Department and Congress on “Exploring opportunities to market defense equipment abroad” and “Providing information to Congressional Committees regarding Lockheed programs.” The Cohen Group’s ties to Lockheed Martin remained close after Miller left the firm in 2010. PAI pointed out in 2013, for example, that the firm’s senior counselor James Loy and vice chairman Joseph Ralston were both directors for Lockheed Martin.
Miller’s lobbying activities for Lockheed Martin are notable given his future trajectory – as we’ll see – of becoming a board member of a Lockheed subsidiary and a Pentagon private consultant.
The Scowcroft Group
In August 2010, Miller left the Cohen Group to join another powerhouse firm, the Scowcroft Group. The firm was started by Brent Scowcroft, the two-time National Security Advisor to Presidents Ford and George H.W. Bush. The Scowcroft Group quickly became one of the most powerful beltway consulting firms. “As head of the Scowcroft Group,” a profile of Scowcroft once stated, “he dispenses advice to American corporate clients, for six-figure fees, on foreign affairs.”
Miller is one of nine principles of the firm. The Scowcroft Group is very secretive about its clients, so we don’t know much about who Miller and the firm are working with, but we can be pretty confident they have ties to the defense industry – the industry to which top firm personnel have their strongest ties. (The big conflict that Miller brings to his current Pentagon consulting role – advising the Defense Secretary while also serving as a partner for a firm that advises global businesses – should not be lost.)
Defense Industry Profiteer
After he left government service to become a lobbyist and a consultant, Miller also joined a range of corporate, think-tank, and advisory boards. Membership on these boards further enmeshed him into the revolving door nexus where the defense industry, government officials, military, scholars and researchers, and lobbyists and consultants all meet to prop up – and profit off of – the military industrial complex.
EADS North America, Inc.
One of Miller’s first corporate board appointments was with EADS North America, the US wing of Airbus Group, the second largest aerospace and defense company in the world and a major recipient of US defense contracts. Miller was appointed to the board in October 2008 alongside Trent Lott, the powerful, racial segregation-praising former Mississippi senator who resigned from the Senate in late 2007 to become a lobbyist.
Miller served on the EADS board until at least December 2012 and possibly to the present – his Scowcroft bio page describes him as a current board member. From 2009 to 2012, EADS North America received 1,031 government contracts for a whopping $2.03 billion dollars, primarily from the Defense Department. It is unknown how much Miller was compensated for his board directorship since EADS North America is not a publicly-traded company.
Sandia National Laboratories
Miller was elected to the board of directors of Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) in December 2014. At the time, SNL was operated and managed by Sandia Corporation, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin that operated SNL as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. (SNL has subsequently come under the management of Honeywell).
According to Nuclear Watch New Mexico, SNL is the largest nuclear weapons lab in the US in terms of budget and number of personnel. It will be a major player in and beneficiary of any increased spending on nuclear weapons. SNL is directly involved in the weaponization of nuclear power – making it explosive and deliverable – and serves as a “liaison” between this complex and the Pentagon. Its current director, Stephen Younger, has pushed for nuclear expansion.
In late 2015, Sandia agreed to pay a fine of nearly $4.8 million for using federal funds to lobby Congress and federal agencies to retain its federal contracts, which the Justice Department said was a violation of the Byrd Amendment and the False Claims Act. The DOJ substantiated its accusation that “SNL impermissibly attempted to influence an extension to the Sandia Corporation contract” – which occurred in 2013, before Miller became a board member, though he was on the board when Sandia paid the fine. More recently, Sandia has helped the CIA hack Apple’s iPhones.
According to Miller’s bio page at Scowcroft, he is currently still a director of Sandia, though he not presently listed on the board of managers on Sandia’s website. As with his EADS North America role, it is unknown how much Miller was compensated for his directorship with SNL.
Charles Stark Draper Laboratory
Miller was elected board chairman of the Draper Laboratory in October 2013 and has held the position ever since. Draper is a military research institute associated with MIT that does contracted weapons and other research, primarily for the Department of Defense. Since 2008, Draper has received over $4.2 billion in over 2,300 government contracts and grants, primarily from the Defense Department and NASA. Though it is a non-profit research center, Draper and its work and personnel are deeply entwined with for-profit defense companies; for example, it recently joined in a contract around the army’s D3I program which teams it up with multiple major weapons’ companies such as Raytheon and BAE Systems.
Draper has long been a focus of protest because of its ties to the military-industrial complex – for example, demonstrators targeted it in 1979 and 1981 for its involvement in developing nuclear missiles.
Miller was compensated $71,685 in 2015 for his board role – a high amount for a non-profit director – and was flown in first class to board meetings “to improve participation in business meetings.” The board that Miller oversees at Draper has particularly close ties to Lockheed Martin. Joanne M. Maguire served as executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. from July 2006 until her retirement in May 2013; and Richard T. Roca, director of Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, has does contracted work with Lockheed and other defense companies. The draper board also includes Frank Kearney, a private security profiteer who advises TigerSwan, the company that has targeted anti-pipeline protests.
Miller sits on the advisory board of Centrus Energy, which describes itself as “a trusted supplier of enriched uranium fuel for commercial nuclear power plants in the United States and around the world.” The board includes a former National Security Advisor and former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense. Miller joined the board in early 2016. Centrus partners in contracts funded by the Department of Energy. Centrus expects to take in $200 million to $225 million in revenue in 2017. It is unknown how much Miller is compensated for his advisory role.
Think Tanks for Empire
In addition to his memberships on these corporate and laboratory boards, Miller has positions at several high-profile defense and military think tanks. These are crucial places for the military industrial complex – sites and spaces where private defense profiteers, advisors and lobbyists, war scholars, and public officials all intermingle.
Miller sits on the board of the Atlantic Council, a major foreign policy think tank whose personnel, milieu, and funders are central to the world of defense profiteering. Major weapons corporations, oil regimes, fossil fuel companies, and private equity firms are big donors of the Council. In particular, the defense industry ties to the Atlantic Council are many: Raytheon was a platinum sponsor of its 2017 conference; former Lockheed CEO Robert J. Stevens is on the board; a 2015 Leadership Award given to the Lockheed CEO. Close allies of Miller hold powerful positions within the Atlantic Council; Brent Scowcroft is the Emeritus Board Chair and has a center named after him, while former Scowcroft Group partner Stephen Hadley is the current executive vice chair.
Hadley, who Miller has also co-authored articles with that argue against nuclear drawdown, deserves particular attention. Hadley has served in government, on and off, since the Ford administration. From 1993 to 2003 he was with the Scowcroft group, but left to serve as Deputy National Security Advisor from 2001 to 2005 and then National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2009. Hadley lost no time returning to the private sector after he left the Bush administration. He joined the board of Raytheon in 2009 and has served on it since; Raytheon’s 2017 proxy shows he is being compensated a total of $289,542.
Hadley is now a principal of the powerful RiceHadleyGates LLC consulting firm, along with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Hadley was reportedly under consideration to be Trump’s Defense Secretary. Perhaps even more than Miller, Hadley is emblematic of the in-and-out revolving door of government service and then drawing on that service for private business and profit.
Center for Strategic and International Studies
CSIS is another foreign policy think tank, formed in 1962, where current and former government officials mingle with defense contractors and other big money figures (billionaire Thomas Pritzker is the CSIS chair). It has an operating revenue of $43.8 million donations, buoyed by huge donations from defense contractors (other industries also contribute – former Exxon CEO and current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson personally gave $75,000 recently).
The CSIS board of trustees includes representatives from major defense corporations, such as Boeing, as well as principles from the Cohen Group and Scowcroft Group. Miller is a Senior Adviser with CSIS’s International Security Program; he has headlined various CSIS events alongside high-up officials – for example, a US Strategic Command commander and a former US Senator.
One close ally of Miller’s who has participated at CSIS events is Keith B. Payne, a former Pentagon official who co-founded and heads the National Institute for Public Policy. NIPP is an defense industry-backed think tank (its board includes a former Boeing executive) that has pushed aggressive positions on nuclear weapons since the Reagan era. Miller once wrote an essay – the title was “Victory is Possible” – that discussed how to wage nuclear war “rationally” (he argued the US could “reduce” its casualties to a mere 20 million – it’s no wonder that Payne has been compared to Dr. Strangelove, the famous film character who was infatuated with the prospects of nuclear destruction). Payne and Miller have co-authored op-eds, and Stephen Hadley was tied to the NIPP’s founding. Indeed, the ties between industry-backed nuclear hawks like Miller, Payne, and Hadley go back decades – with this milieu now having direct influence over the President’s nuclear policy.
Miller, Trump, and the Military Industrial Complex
Miller, then, stands at the cross section of the military, defense corporations, and the government. He is simultaneously a private consultant, a nuclear lab board director, a private nuclear weapons company board director, a member of defense industry-backed think tanks, an advisor to the Pentagon, and a shaper of Trump’s nuclear policy.
This all creates a scenario where – while most of us are anxious about the prospect of nuclear war and want to draw down production and escalation – Miller and other types like him are pushing in the other direction. They’ve built lives – consulting and lobbying fees, lab and corporate board positions, think tank slots funded by defense industry, and entire personal worldviews – that profit off of the nuclear industry and policies that further its interests.
While Miller is a stark symbol of the military industrial complex, he’s not an aberration. Indeed, the top three officials in Trump’s Pentagon are all former executives or directors of top defense companies. As long as huge corporate profits and lucrative revolving door gigs are linked to military production in the US, the military industrial complex will likely remain a problem. Many, however, are critical of this mutually reinforcing system militarism and profit-making, and therein may lie the potential for a new mainstream politics that moves in a different, less threatening direction.