George Graham

Merchant of Death Seeks New Role in a World at Peace

patriotIt sounds too good to be true, and maybe it is. But it looks as if some of those “defense industry” giants are beating their swords into plowshares after all. I know, it’s probably wishful thinking on my part. I am so depressed by the expenditure of so much of a hungry world’s resources on bombs and bullets – instead of bread – that I am probably grasping at straws. However, you have to admit it’s encouraging to read this in the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times:

Still, as the Afghan and Iraq wars inevitably wind down, Raytheon is on the hunt for new business opportunities from the Department of Homeland Security, large civilian customers and big international corporations — all in need of better protection.

“Raytheon’s looking way ahead and anticipates a decline in military spending,” says Willy Schweikert, Raytheon director of engineering in Florida. “After 9/11, we have seen and expect to see more demand for protection of the nation’s borders, oil refineries and businesses in general.”

On Thursday evening, Raytheon put its best technology face forward. The company took over the nonprofit Pinellas Science Center to showcase many of the newer, next-stage projects in which the company hopes to become a player. The invitation-only event attracted about 400 Raytheon employees and their families and was intended, in part, to show younger people how “cool” engineering work can be.

rideCool indeed. Raytheon also sponsors the new Sum of All Thrills simulator ride (photo at left) that opened last month at Walt Disney World’s Epcot. Guests can “engineer” or design their own thrill ride using math and science principles. Then they experience their own custom ride via a simulator — a giant robotic arm that powers the riders’ experience.

What was so striking at Thursday’s tech show was the extraordinary range of nonmilitary pursuits Raytheon has on its drawing boards.

“Inevitably wind down.” “Extraordinary range of nonmilitary pursuits.” Wow! These matter-of-fact phrases (to borrow a line from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews) sent a thrill up my leg.

You know who Raytheon is, don’t you? Think Patriot missile (top photo). Here’s a reminder from Wikipedia:

Raytheon is the world’s largest producer of guided missiles. Established in 1922, the company reincorporated in 1928 and adopted its present name in 1959. The company has around 73,000 employees worldwide and annual revenues of approximately US$20 billion. More than 90 percent of Raytheon’s revenues were obtained from defense contracts and, as of 2007, it was the fifth largest defense contractor in the world, and is the fourth largest defense contractor in the United States by revenue.

When one of the most powerful agents of destruction and death turns its attention to sponsoring rides for Mickey Mouse, there’s hope for a better world. Let’s hope the company executives who see peace in the future are right – despite all evidence to the contrary.


About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for