In the last several decades, and certainly in the post-9/11 environment in which the previous restrictions on the militarization of the American society largely disappeared, the US national security establishment has expand not only by creating new programs and agencies, but also by co-opting non-state actors. Many a US think-tank is now little more than an extension of some US government agency, conducting research to validate previously arrived-at conclusions in furtherance of a specific institutional agenda. Likewise many corporations have gone beyond being mere defense or intelligence contractors. Rather, their business activities are from the outset designed to be readily weaponizable, meshing seamlessly with the armed services and intelligence agencies.
It is not entirely clear how the process works, for there does not appear to be a system of contract awards for specific deliverables. Rather, it seems these capabilities are developed on the initiative of specific businesses which speculate their efforts will be utilized by the US national security establishment ever on the lookout for technological “game-changers”. Moreover, given the unchecked growth of the US national security budget, these entrepreneurs can operate in high confidence their efforts will also be financially rewarded by the intelligence and defense establishments, even if they are not commercially viable.
There have been numerous examples of initially civilian applications being put to use for the benefit of US national security institutions. Facebook has made its databases available to various agencies to test facial recognition technologies, for example. Google and Amazon make their cloud capabilities available to the Pentagon and the intelligence communities. The opposition to China’s Huawei 5G networks and cell phones appears to be motivated by the concern these systems do not have backdoors installed for the benefit of US national security state.
Elon Musk’s business empire has benefitted from its proximity to the US national security state. Musk, an immigrant from the Republic of South Africa, has made his initial fortune by creating PayPal. While Musk has sold his remaining interest in PayPal in 2002, that entity has since then engaged in furthering US national security agendas by blocking payments to organizations which were critical of US policies. This, however, is probably more of a reflection of the subservience of US tech firms to the US government than of Musk’s original intent.