General Dynamics Corp

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company headquarters
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One of the largest military contractors in the world. Provides weapons and munitions used by the Israeli air force against Palestinian civilians. Involved in monitoring the US-Mexico border and surveilling immigrant communities inside the US.

General Dynamics is a multinational weapon manufacturer and aerospace company headquartered in Reston, Virginia. In 2020, it was the world’s fifth-largest defense contractor and the third-largest federal government contractor overall. Between 1988-2021, the federal government awarded General Dynamics contracts worth at least $239 billion, primarily by the Department of Defense. The company generated $37 billion in revenue in 2020, 69% of which came from the U.S. government, and 59% from the Department of Defense, including $737 million in foreign military sales. 

General Dynamics’s Combat Systems segment produces the M1 Abrams, the main battle tank of the U.S. Army, as well as other armored combat vehicles and munitions for the U.S. military. Its Marine Systems segment builds ships and submarines for the U.S. Navy. The company’s Information Technology business doubled with its 2018 acquisition of IT company CSRA, which operates in areas such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and cybersecurity.

Military sales to Israel and collaboration with the Israeli military industries

General Dynamics has provided the Israeli military with weapon systems and munitions, mostly through the Department of Defense Foreign Military Sales program. These weapons systems include bombs such as BLU-113 5,000-lb “bunker buster bombs”, MK-82 500-lb and MK-84 2000-lb bombs, and  BLU-109 bombs. 

General Dynamics manufactures the GD 883 engine for the Israeli 65t Merkava 4 battle tank and it is the primary manufacturer of the Namer, or “Leopard,” armored personnel carriers (APCs).

The company also produces the gun systems that arm the F-16 and F-35 fighter jets, a technology designed to protect combat vehicles from anti-tank rockets, guided missiles called the Iron Fist Light Active Protection System, and a special electronic mission aircraft (SEMA) for Israel’s air force.

Use of General Dynamics Systems in Attacks on Palestinian Civilians

F-16 fighter jets, Merkava tanks, Namer Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs), and other weaponry have been used repeatedly in Israeli attacks on densely populated civilian areas, resulting in thousands of civilian casualties in Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza. The human rights community, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, B’tselem, and United Nations commissions have ruled these attacks to be human rights violations, collective punishment, and at times war crimes.

According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Israel used Merkava tanks in Lebanon in 2006. Between July 12th and August 14th 2006, Israel conducted a ground and aerial bombardment of Lebanon that severely damaged civilian infrastructure and killed 1,183 people, of whom approximately one third were children. Israeli forces deliberately targeted apartment buildings, villages, plants, bridges, seaports, and other key features of Lebanon’s infrastructure. According to a report published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), Israel violated international humanitarian law by failing to take care to prevent civilian casualties during its airstrikes on Lebanese infrastructure.  

From December 27th, 2008 to January 18th, 2009, Israel conducted an attack on Gaza it called “Operation Cast Lead” during which Israeli forces used various weapons systems manufactured by General Dynamics. According to the UN’s Fact-Finding Mission to the Gaza Conflict, Israel carried out attacks with F-16 aircraft on civilian homes and refugee camps. General Dynamics manufactures gun systems for the F-16. These attacks were ruled violations of international human rights and humanitarian law as well as possible war crimes and crimes against humanity. Of the 1,394 Palestinians killed in the “Cast Lead” attacks, 345 were minors. The assault injured over 5,300 people and killed 1,383 Palestinians, of whom 333 were children. Israeli forces destroyed the homes of over 3,400 Palestinian families and left thousands of civilians homeless and physically impaired. According to a report published by the United Nations Human Rights Council, Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilian objects and failed to take every possible precaution to minimize civilian casualties, thereby violating customary international law.

In 2014, Israel conducted an attack on Gaza called “Operation Protective Edge” that killed 2,251 Palestinians, of whom 1,462 were civilians and 551 were children. Israeli forces used numerous weapons systems manufactured by General Dynamics throughout the assault on Gaza. RAND Corporation reported that Israel used Merkava 4 battle tanks in Gaza in both Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014. RAND also documented Israeli use of Namer APCs in the Golani Brigade attack on Shuja’iya that killed 65 Palestinians, of whom 35 were women, children, and the elderly. According to a report by Amnesty International,  Israel used F-16 aircraft throughout the 2014 assault, including in an attack on Rafah on August 1 and in an attack on Al Shati Refugee camp. The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights reported that approximately 47% of civilians killed during “Operation Protective Edge” were killed by warplanes including the F-16. Israeli forces conducted over 6,000 airstrikes in Gaza and damaged or destroyed 18,000 housing units, 73 medical facilities, and many ambulances. As a result of the attack, over 1,500 Palestinian children were orphaned and 11,231 people were injured, of whom 3,436 were children. According to a report by the United Nations Human Rights Council, Israeli forces may have violated international human rights law and committed war crimes on numerous occasions because of their apparent disregard for the preservation of civilian life.

F-16 aircraft were repeatedly used in 2018 to conduct airstrikes in Gaza, resulting in civilian deaths. In February, Israeli missiles launched from F-16 warplanes killed two 17-year-old Palestinian teenagers during six extensive airstrikes, the largest assault since Operation Protective Edge. The attacks wounded two more Palestinians and damaged civilian homes. In July, Israeli forces used F-16 aircraft, helicopters, and unmanned aerial drones to launch about 85 missiles at the Gaza Strip, killing two children and injuring 28 people. The attack damaged residential homes and partially damaged or destroyed numerous ambulances and trucks transporting medical supplies.

Immigrant Mass Biometric Surveillance - IDENT

General Dynamics is the primary contractor for DHS’ Automated Biometric Identity System (IDENT), “the central DHS-wide system for storage and processing of biometric and associated biographic information.” DHS uses IDENT to store, match, process, and share biometric and biographic information on over 230 million unique individuals.

IDENT is an essential tool used by CBP and ICE, as well as local and state law enforcement, to track, monitor, and detain immigrants. It was the key technology that facilitated the Secure Communities program, directly responsible for an estimated 450,000 deportations between 2008 and 2014 alone.

This $478 million 4-year contract was awarded in 2015 to CSRA, which General Dynamics acquired three years later. IDENT is gradually being replaced with the Northrop Grumman-designed Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) system, which significantly expands on IDENT’s capabilities. However, DHS is retaining IDENT as its “system of record” until HART becomes fully operational, which is expected in 2022, and will keep both systems for a few more years. For that purpose, in 2020 DHS awarded General Dynamics another contract, worth a potential $64.3 million, ending in 2025.

In addition to IDENT, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) signed numerous contracts worth $10.3 billion with General Dynamics between 2004-2021, including a 2008 contract to migrate DHS’ systems and information to two main data centers in Stennis, Mississippi and Clarksville, Virginia. The first, in Stennis, Mississippi, was set up and operated by CSC Government Solutions (now CSRA/General Dynamics). The first contract from 2008 to 2015 was worth $723 million dollars, while the second contract was worth $967 million dollars through 2019.

US-Mexico Border Remote Video Surveillance System

General Dynamics is a major contractor of U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which together awarded the company $1.3 billion in contracts from 2004 to 2021. The company was highlighted as one of the fourteen main border security companies in a 2019 report published by the Transnational Institute and No Mas Muertes.

Since 2013, General Dynamics has provided CBP with its Remote Video Surveillance System (RVSS) on the U.S.-Mexico border. These consist of tower-mounted pairs of day and night cameras that feed video to a dedicated CBP facility, enabling “Border Patrol to survey large areas ... as they detect, identify, and classify incursions at the border.” RVSS towers RVSS towers are smaller and more relocatable than the Elbit Systems Integrated Fixed Towers.

CBP started using RVSSs as part of Boeing’s “virtual wall” SBInet contract, which was canceled in 2011. Two years later, CBP awarded General Dynamics a 10-year $176.8 million contract to upgrade its existing RVSSs and purchase additional ones. Other companies awarded RVSS subcontracts include Teledyne Technologies subsidiaries PureTech and FLIR as well as Dell Federal Systems. By 2019, CBP had 368 RVSS towers, mostly along the U.S.-Mexico border but also on the U.S.-Canada border.

Beyond its original intended use, RVSSs have been used for purposes of domestic political surveillance. In 2017, CBP stationed one of its RVSS towers in San Diego to monitor political opposition to the building of prototypes for the so-called “Trump Wall,” citing the “emerging threat of demonstrations.”

In addition to the RVSS, General Dynamics subsidiary CSRA was awarded a $45 million contract with CBP for consultation on “optimal towers, camera sensors and radar systems to help detect and classify threats to the security of the nation’s borders,” active from 2016 to 2019.

Immigrant Family Separation

Since 2000, General Dynamics has worked for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Alongside large contracts for managing the federal healthcare programs Medicare and Medicaid, the company also provided services related to ORR’s role in enforcing the Trump administration Family Separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border. As a part of this policy, 5,500 children had been separated from their families, 1,727 of whom have not been reunited with their families as of September 2021.

Since 2015, General Dynamics has provided services related to “unaccompanied children”, ORR’s case coordination system (which monitors children as they move through the system) and infrastructure services for children shelters. Children separated from their families were placed in detention facilities and later put under the care of relatives (even very distant ones) or the foster care system.

After receiving negative public attention for these activities, the company stated in 2018 that it only provides “casework support services to help ensure special needs of unaccompanied children are met, including medical requirements, and to facilitate family reunification.” The company emphasized that it “has no role in the family separation policy.” However, immediately following Trump’s zero-tolerance policy (which includes family separation), General Dynamics began advertising job positions to assist in the children’s detention process, including bilingual case workersdata entry clerks, and a position to monitor cases as they move through the system.

Political Influence

From 1998 to July 2021, General Dynamics spent $277 million in the U.S. on lobbying in relation to over 1,500 issues including tank production, combat vehicles and shipbuilding, defense authorizations, intel collection, and military procurement. The company also has a Political Action Committee (PAC) that, from 1978 to July 2021, spent $23.7 million in campaign contributions to both Democratic and Republican parties through direct contributions and other PACs.

Some board General Dynamics members have held key positions in the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as the U.S. Department of Treasury. Several senior officials have been hired to work at General Dynamics. Former Secretaries of Defense under the Trump administration, James Mattis, Mark Esper, and Patrick Shanahan, had close ties to General Dynamics, as well as Raytheon and Boeing

Other Controversies

From 1995 to June 2021, General Dynamics has been involved in 25 misconduct cases in the U.S. alone. According to the Project on Government Oversight, during that time, the U.S. federal government has fined General Dynamics $280.3 million. These misconduct violations range from labor to environmental regulation violations.

In April 2018, the Communication Workers of America filed four complaints to the U.S. Department of Labor accusing General Dynamics Information Technology of consciously and intentionally underpaying about 10,000 workers by up to 100 million dollars over the past five years.

Economic Activism Highlights
  • On April 26, 2017, University of Wisconsin-Madison students passed a resolution to call for the university's divestment from private prisons and corporations that build border walls, naming Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Honeywell, L-3 Communications, Boeing, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, BNP Paribas, Suntrust, US Bank Corp., and Wells Fargo.
  • In May 2015 the Olgethorpe University Student Senate passed a resolution to divest from General Dynamics “based on evidence of their active role in human rights abuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
  • Students at UC Los Angeles passed a resolution to divest from General Dynamics in November 2014, stating General Dynamics “provide[s] weapons used in attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in the Gaza Strip.”
  • The University of Michigan at Dearborn’s student council passed a divestment resolution in 2010, calling General Dynamics a “corporation that sell[s] weapons, goods, and services to Israel [and] in turn uses the weapons, goods, and services inhumanely.”
  • In 2005 and 2006, the University of Michigan at Dearborn passed resolutions urging divestment from General Dynamics, citing the company’s “support and benefit from the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation.”
Unless specified otherwise, the information in this page is valid as of
3 November 2021