Merchant of Death - Alliant Techsystems


Alliant Techsystems Logo

Name: Alliant Techsystems
Corporate Headquarters: Edina, Minnesota
Primary Products/Services:
Bullets, artillery, cluster and depleted uranium munitions, mine systems
CEO: Dan Murphy
Total 2006 Sales: $3.1 Billion
Campaign Contributions: $175,360 (2002 - 2006)


The “Long War” needs lots of bullets.  With the United States fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and training new soldiers every day, Alliant’s bullets and munitions are literally flying off the shelves.  The company has more than quadrupled its capacity to manufacture small-arms ammunition since 2000 and is now planning to increase capacity to 1.5 billion bullets a year.  As Alliant Tech’s CEO Dan Murphy said recently, “The consumable nature of our core product and our future-oriented portfolios of advanced weapons and space systems align ATK closely with future funding priorities.”  Plainly said: War and preparation for war are the foundation of our profit, and our future is looking bright.

Based in Edina, MN, the company is the U.S. military’s largest supplier of munitions - from bullets in guns to heavy artillery and cluster munitions shot from tanks.  Alliant Tech works on many Pentagon contracts, including composite materials for space warfare systems and rocket motors for most missiles - most notably the Trident II missile and the Minuteman III ICBM, both of which are nuclear delivery vehicles.  The company has also moved into the lucrative Homeland Security arena, marketing chemical and radiation agent detection systems to police and military.  Finally, Alliant’s foot is in the “future war” door, as the company is creating prototype weapons using “directed energy” (lasers and microwaves) for “lethal and non lethal purposes.”

This breadth helped catapult Alliant Tech from the bottom of the Pentagon’s lsit of top 100 contractors to the top third.  The company, which only employs 15,000 people, is ranked 29th for 2005.  For fiscal years 2002 through 2005, the most recent years for which full data is available, Alliant Techsystems received a cumulative total of about $3.7 billion in Pentagon contracts.

According to a 1997 Human Rights Watch report, Alliant Techsystems was the primary contractor on two antipersonnel mine contracts - the Volano and the Gator mine systems. The “Vehicle Launched Scatterable Antitank System” or Volcano has launcher tubes that can be mounted on a tank or truck and fire 800 antitank mines and 160 antipersonnel explosives in just 43 seconds.  The Gator system is dispensed by jet aircraft.  An F-16 fighter plane or similar craft can spread 600 mines in seconds - deploying 72 antitank mines and 22 antipersonnel weapons from each of its cluster bomb-linke containers.  Alliant Tech also manufactured more than 16 million medium- and large-caliber depleted uranium (DU) munitions.  Toxic and radioactive, DU is a byproduct of the fissile material in nuclear weapons, and burns on impact.

Vietnam War-era protests made its predecessor, Honeywell, synonymous with landmines, cluster bombs, and indiscriminate killing in Southeast Asia. Honeywell unloaded its munitions ooperations in 1991, renaming it Alliant Techsystems. But the protests continue.

Alliant Action

For the last nine years, the Twin Cities peace and justice communities have held vigils at Alliant Tech, drawing attention to what happens behind corporate facades.

According to a January article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, 176 people have been arrested for trespassing at protests in the last nine years.  In jury trials in 2003 and 2004, activists effectively put the war in Iraq, President Bush’s policies, and Alliant’s war profiteering on trial, winning acquittals.  According to Alliant campaigner Stever Clemens, the company and Edina officials were embarrassed.

In October, hosted by AlliantAction, groups and individuals from around the country will gather in the Twin Cities to network, strategize, and share stories in the work against war profiteers.  The gathering will culminate in a massive nonviolent direct action outside of Alliant Tech on October 2, Gandhi’s birthday.  For more information see Stopping the Merchants of Death.

Frida Berrigan

A member of WRL’s National Committee, Frida Berrigan is a columnist for Waging Nonviolence  and a ”stay-at-home” mother in New London, Connecticut, where she lives with her husband Patrick Sheehan-Gaumer and their three children. She is the daughter of Plowshares activists Liz McAllister and the late Philip Berrigan and author of "It Runs in the Family: On Being Raised by Radicals and Growing into Rebellious Motherhood", a memoir of her childhood as their daughter and her adult life as an activist and a mother.