One of the commonly cited reasons for the ratcheting of defense spending in the United States is that it's an easily justifiable kickback (tugging on patriotic heart strings) to representatives' districts. A recent Howard Dean opinion piece has him claiming that:

the defense establishment has plants in 420 out of the 435 Congressional districts.

While I would expect this number to be large, that seems extreme. I'm guessing it's padded by including sub(-sub-sub...)contractors, but even then, how pervasive is the spending of the DoD?

  • I think you'll need to define 'plant' in this context if you're going to get an answer. Corrupt? Subcontractor? Receives bribes? Nobody's going to dig into the circumstances of all 400+ people.
    – John Lyon
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 2:21
  • Perhaps the DoD spending is, I dunno, going toward the defense of the nation. This might be a better question for a WikiLeaks forum. Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 5:39
  • 1
    @jozzas, I interpreted 'plant' as factory, not stooge.
    – Benjol
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 6:03
  • I posted a comment on the piece asking for his source. Perhaps that will turn up an answer. Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 6:15
  • Are there manufacturing plants owned by companies that have production contracts(or subcontracts) for the Department of Defense in the vast majority of Congressional districts? I would guess the answer is yes. Especially when you consider that Haliburton subsidiaries are all over the country with names you would not link to the conglomerate.
    – Chad
    Commented Aug 31, 2012 at 12:55

1 Answer 1


Strictly speaking, the US DoD doesn't have plants/factories of its own anywhere.

It's various sub-agencies (DARPA, NRO, NSA, CIA, etc) create contract opportunities that private companies bid on.

The government's role is in deciding contracts, dispersing money for payments, determining compliance and staffing the administrative operations. The actual 'stuff' is almost always built by private companies.

Assuming you're referring to the location of where those private contracts are handed out, it's more interesting to look at how many contracts there are per Congressional District, not how many plants/factories. If it's about paying for Congressional votes, a physical "plant" doesn't have to be there. Money just has to flow.

In 2011, there were DoD contracts awarded in all 435 Congressional Districts.

That's not surprising when you consider:

a) The DoD annual budget is some $600 billion per year

b) There are over 170,000 government contractors in the US, of which about 77k work primarily for the DoD

c) The average size of a Congressional District is pretty big - more than 640k people. What are the odds that with a defense budget that large, a random group of 640k people isn't going to end up with a piece of the pie in one way or another.

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