About Face: Veterans Against the War is an organization of thousands of post-9/11 veterans and service members taking action to end a foreign policy of permanent war and the use of military weapons, tactics, and values in communities across the country. As people intimately familiar with the inner workings of the world’s largest military, we use our knowledge and experiences to expose the truth about these conflicts overseas and the growing militarization we’ve witnessed in the United States.
Because we see the connections between violence abroad and at home, it doesn’t surprise us to learn that AECOM, the company that recently won the bid for Chicago’s potential new Cop Academy, is the same company that’s received billions in contracts from the Department of Defense (DoD). From Iraq to Afghanistan, AECOM has profited from the endless wars that have cost trillions of dollars and, more devastatingly, millions of lives. And in Chicago, AECOM is now looking to profit from a project whose beneficiaries — the city’s police — have a highly documented, proven record of brutal abuse of communities, excessive force, and a decades-long lack of oversight.
It’s no secret that the DoD’s history is full of examples of illegal torture, assassinations, and indiscriminately targeting civilians, just as its contracts are rife with waste and overspending. AECOM is no exception. In fact, an investigation conducted by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that 14% of costs AECOM claimed — or more than $4.2 million — could not be supported or justified. As veterans and servicemembers whose families and communities are constantly impacted by a lack of access to health care, education, and housing, it disgusts us to see resources put towards and wasted on wars that have destroyed so many lives.
Now, AECOM is set to win a $95 million contract for Chicago’s new Cop Academy, at a moment when Chicago public schools are continuing to close and critical social services — including mental health — are continuing to be cut. For vets, this pattern is one that feels all too familiar to cuts to the VA as budgets for weapons and deployments rose. It’s a pattern that treats people as disposable in the pursuit of larger profits and extreme militarism, benefitting a few at the expense of many.
We endorse the No Cop Academy campaign, and we join their call to defund the city’s already-bloated police budget and to direct these resources towards fully-funded public schools, accessible mental health clinics, living wages, and more. Moreover, we stand with all the young people across Chicago working to break this pattern, demanding that we divest from what does most harm and instead invest in what communities need most — at home and abroad.