The world's fifth–largest military company. It manufactures weapons used by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians and surveillance technology which is used to monitor the U.S.-Mexico border and surveil immigrant communities.
General Dynamics, headquartered in Reston, Virginia, designs, manufactures, and sells military weapons and equipment, including armored fighting and robotic combat vehicles, tanks, artillery systems, aircraft guns, and cybersecurity systems. As of 2022, it is the world's fifth–largest military company, with $38.5 billion in annual revenue, 80% of which derives from its defense sector.
The company has long supplied the U.S. and international militaries with weapon systems and equipment. Between 2008 and 2021, it signed contracts worth just over $2.4 billion with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). It also designed the central biometric database (IDENT) used by U.S. immigration authorities and was one of the top contractors for U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the agency's efforts to erect a "smart/virtual" wall on the U.S.-Mexico border between 2005 and 2019 (see below for more details).
War Crimes Against Palestinian Civilians
General Dynamics supplies the Israeli military with a wide variety of weapons, including various bombs. The company's technologies are also integrated into Israel's main weapon systems, including fighter jets and armored combat vehicles. These weapons are often gifted to Israel through the U.S. government's Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program.
For years, these weapons have repeatedly been used against Palestinian civilians, resulting in numerous casualties as well as mass destruction of homes and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, schools, and water and electric systems. These attacks include war crimes that Israel committed during several military offenses against the Gaza Strip, which has been illegally blockaded since 2007:
- 2022 ("Operation Breaking Dawn"): Within three days of an unprovoked offensive, Israel killed at least 33 Palestinians, including 17 civilians. Evidence of war crimes was recorded by Amnesty International.
- 2021 ("Operation Guardian of the Walls"): During this assault, Israel killed at least 261 Palestinians, including 67 children and 41 women. At least half of the fatalities were civilians, and more than 2,200 additional Palestinians were injured. Evidence of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity was published by Palestinian human rights organizations Al-Haq, Al Mezan, and the Palestinian Center for Human Rights; Amnesty International; and Human Rights Watch. The International Criminal Court announced that it will examine these cases.
- 2014 ("Operation Protective Edge"): During this 50-day assault, Israel killed at least 2,131 Palestinians, at least 1,463 of whom were civilians, including 501 children and 257 women. At least 11,100 Palestinians were wounded, including 3,374 children. Evidence of war crimes was published by Palestinian human rights organizations Al-Haq and Al-Mezan; Israeli organization B'Tselem; Amnesty International; and Human Rights Watch.
- 2012 ("Operation Pillar of Defense"): Israel killed 174 Palestinians, 101 of whom were civilians, including 33 children and 13 women. Evidence of Israeli war crimes was published by the UN, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.
- 2008–2009 ("Operation Cast Lead"): During this 22-day assault, Israel killed at least 1,385 Palestinians, including at least 308 children, and wounded at least 5,000 more. The majority of casualties were civilians. Evidence of war crimes was published by the UN's Fact-Finding Mission, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch.
The Israeli military uses various bombs manufactured by General Dynamics, including BLU-113 5,000–pound "bunker buster" bombs, BLU-109 "hardened penetration" bombs, and MK- 82 and 84 "general-purpose" bombs.
General Dynamics' MK-84 2,000-pound bombs have been used extensively by the Israeli Air Force during its frequent assaults on Gaza, including in 2021 and in multiple suspected war crimes in 2014. In 2015, the UN Commission of Inquiry that investigated the 2014 attack on Gaza warned that the use of MK-84 bombs in highly populated areas would likely "constitute a violation of the prohibition of indiscriminate attacks."
The U.S. supplied Israel with 50 BLU-113 bombs and 700 BLU-109 bombs as part of a $1.8 billion Foreign Military Sale in 2015. In 2012, General Dynamics was named as a principal contractor for a $647 million proposed Foreign Military Sale to Israel, which included at least 1,725 BLU-109 bombs, 1,725 MK-82 bombs, and 3,450 MK-84 bombs. Additionally, in 2007, the U.S. approved sales of 3,500 MK-84s to Israel.
Warplanes: F-15, F-16, F-35
General Dynamics provides weapon systems, components, and maintenance services to Israel's fleet of F-15, F-16, and F-35 fighter jets. The company manufactures the 20mm guns for F-15E fighter jets; 25mm guns for F-15, F-16, and F-35 aircraft; and 30mm "gun pods" for F-15 and F-16 aircraft. Its 20mm ammunition loading system is also installed on F-15 and F-16 aircraft. General Dynamics designed the F-16 and selling it to Israel until 1993, however today the aircraft is manufactures by Lockheed Martin.
Since the 1970s, the F-16 has been the Israeli Air Force's "most important fighter jet" and has been used by the Israeli military in all of its major assaults on Gaza. For example, during Israel's 2021 offensive, F-16s were described as the "mainstay of the bombardment." They were documented, for example, bombing Gaza City's Rimal neighborhood, as well as residential buildings and the offices of news organizations, including Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. During the 2008–2009 assault, Israeli F-16s targeted civilians, civilian homes, and refugee camps. The attacks killed numerous Palestinians, including 22 members of a single family, 12 of whom were children under the age of 10.
In 2018, Israel became the first country in the world to launch an airstrike using F-35I fighter jets, a heavily modified version of the F-35. Since then, the Israeli Air Force has used the aircraft during assaults in and around Gaza. For example, during its 2021 assault, the Israeli Air Force deployed 80 fighter jets, including the F-35I, to carry out "waves of airstrikes across the Gaza Strip."
Additionally, General Dynamics subsidiary Gulfstream provides the Israeli military with a special electronic mission aircraft (SEMA)—a retrofitted G550 business jet—for "electronic intelligence, communications intelligence and ground movement detection." Selected in 2001 by the Israeli military to develop the aircraft, Gulfstream provided the first SEMA aircraft to the Israeli Air Force in 2005. In 2021, Israel unveiled the Oron "spy aircraft," also based on the Gulfstream G550, which it uses to "monitor enemy activities" across Israel's borders, including in the Gaza Strip.
Combat and Armored Personnel Vehicles
General Dynamics provides the Israeli military with weapon systems and components for its armored combat and personnel vehicles. For example, the GD 883 V-12 diesel engine, manufactured by General Dynamics in the U.S., is transferred to Israel for installation and integration into its main battle tank, the Merkava IV.
Merkava IV tanks have been used by the Israeli military at the Israel-Gaza border in all major assaults on Gaza: in 2022, 2021, 2014, 2012, and 2008–2009. Merkava tanks are regularly used to patrol the Israel-Gaza border and to fire at military and civilian targets in Gaza, often resulting in injuries of Palestinians. Additionally, in 2020, Merkava tanks were used alongside an armored Caterpillar bulldozer, in an apparent violation of international humanitarian law, to drag the body of a Palestinian man after he was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers.
General Dynamics previously manufactured the chassis and other key components for the Israeli military's 386 Namer (Leopard) armored personnel carriers (APCs), which are considered "the most protected armored armored combat vehicle[s] in the world." Namer APCs have been used in multiple assaults on the Gaza Strip—for example, in 2014. In 2017, the Israeli military signed a $310 million contract with General Dynamics to produce components for these armored vehicles.
Immigrant Biometric Surveillance (IDENT)
General Dynamics is the primary contractor for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (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 individuals.
IDENT is an essential tool used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well as local and state police, for tracking, monitoring, and detaining immigrants. It was critical in facilitating the Secure Communities program, an ICE program directly responsible for an estimated 450,000 deportations between 2008 and 2014 alone.
The initial IDENT four–year $478 million contract was awarded in 2015 to CSRA, which was acquired by General Dynamics three years later. As of 2022, the system is gradually being replaced with the Northrop Grumman–designed Homeland Advanced Recognition Technology (HART) system, which significantly expands on IDENT's capabilities. However, DHS will retain IDENT as its "system of record" until HART is fully operational 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 and ending in 2025, for IT services for IDENT.
Between 2004 and 2021, DHS signed numerous contracts worth $10.3 billion with General Dynamics, including a 2008 contract to migrate DHS's systems and information to two main data centers in Stennis, Mississippi and Clarksville, Virginia. The first, in Stennis, was set up and operated by CSC Government Solutions (now CSRA/General Dynamics). The first contract, from 2008 to 2015, was worth $723 million; the second contract, active through 2021, was worth $1.3 billion.
US-Mexico Border Remote Video Surveillance System
Since 2013, General Dynamics has provided CBP with its Remote Video Surveillance System (RVSS) for use at the U.S.-Mexico border. The system consists 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 are smaller and more relocatable than 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 ten-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 their original intended use, RVSSs have been used for 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."
General Dynamics subsidiary CSRA was also awarded a $45 million CBP contract–active from 2016 to 2019–for consultation to "optimal towers, camera sensors and radar systems to help detect and classify threats to the security of the nation's borders."
Since 2000, General Dynamics has worked for the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Alongside holding 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's family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border. As part of this policy, 5,500 children were forcibly separated from their families, 1,727 of whom have not been reunited with their family members 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 immigration detention system), and infrastructure services for "shelter care for unaccompanied children." Children separated from their families were placed in immigration jails 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 provided "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 had "no role in the family separation policy." However, immediately following the announcement of Trump's zero-tolerance policy (which included family separation), General Dynamics began advertising job positions to assist in the children's detention, including bilingual case workers, data entry clerks, and a "case coordinator" responsible for monitoring cases as they moved through the system.
Between 1998 and October 2022, General Dynamics spent just over $215 million in the U.S. on lobbying in relation to over 1,500 issues, including tank production, shipbuilding and combat vehicles, defense authorizations, intel collection, and military procurement. The company also has a Political Action Committee (PAC) that, between 1979 and October 2022, spent $26.6 million on campaign contributions to both the Democratic and Republican parties through direct contributions and other PACs.
Some General Dynamics board members have held key positions in the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) 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 Boeing and Raytheon.
Between 1995 and 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 fined General Dynamics $280.3 million. The company's 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 approximately 10,000 workers by up to $100 million over the past five years.
- 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.”