L3-KEO: The Military Industrial Complex in Northampton

L-3 KEO, a military contractor based on Northampton, MA, has been a fixture in “Paradise City” for decades. While the people of the city of Northampton have a reputation for their anti-war activism opposing militarism, the institution has thrived and was recently bought by L-3, one of the biggest defense contractors in the world. AFSC issued this report to take a closer look at the company, and how we, as residents of the U.S., are dependent upon the war economy.

From the Executive Summary:

   “KEO is a longstanding defense contractor, and  not a small one: in the first decade of the 21st century, it was the recipient of more than $700          million in military contracts in Northampton. It has and continued to make optical devices, control and firing systems, and other products for powerful military weaponry.

Last year, KEO was acquired by L-3 Communications, which describes itself as the sixth-largest defense contractor in the United States, and one of the top ten military contractors in the world. L-3 makes a variety of aircraft, communications equipment, sensors, weapons and weapon systems, not the least of which are unmanned aircraft systems, commonly known as drones.

This report is meant to popularize the history, role, and products of KEO and L-3 Communications. Northampton residents and residents of Western Massachusetts should be aware of the presence, production, and impact of such a large and longstanding institution in the region. KEO had political and economic influence in the city before the acquisition by L-3, and now that it has become part of a much larger and more profitable corporation, we should expect that influence to grow.

Northampton is not an anomaly as a city with a large military contractor footprint. As President Eisenhower noted, and Michael Shank recently pointed out, the military-industrial complex has built components of the war-making puzzle in every congressional district across the U.S. Military and war spending is a fundamental part of the U.S. economy. The question we hope to raise is, What do we get from this economy?

This report is also meant to keep in the mind of its reader a question raised by the latter part of President Eisenhower’s statement: Can we do better? Can we create an economy and a society that, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., promotes and funds programs of social uplift as vigorously as it does instruments of violence?”

This report was released in February, 2013.