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Military-industrial complex

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This article is part of the Center for Media & Democracy's focus on the fallout of nuclear "spin."

The phrase military-industrial complex was first used on January 17, 1961, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower [1] in his farewell address to the nation in what is called his Military Industrial Complex Speech:

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
"We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

His children suggest that in an earlier draft of the speech, he refered to the "military-industrial-congressional complex". [2] [3]

The military-industrial complex is generally defined as a "coalition consisting of the military and industrialists who profit by manufacturing arms and selling them to the government." (War profiteering) Eisenhower related, however, that until World War II, the United States did not have an armaments industry. Even though "American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well," the United States could "no longer risk emergency improvisation" of the country's national defense.[4]

The United States, he continues, had been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. At that time, the U.S. was annually spending more on military security "than the net income of all United States corporations." This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry, he said, was "new in the American experience" and that there was an imperative need for this development.[5]


Post Viet Nam 1970s

"In the mid-1970s, the industry and its allies in the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill, and in organizations like the right-wing Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), were looking for ways to reverse the decline in military spending in the wake of the Vietnam War. The 1976 election of Jimmy Carter, who campaigned on a platform of promoting human rights and curbing the arms trade, got the industry’s back up, prompting the creation of a specific industry lobbying group, the American League for Exports and Security Assistance (ALESA). ALESA was explicitly designed to thwart Carter’s efforts on this front." [6]

The Reagan 1980s

"The arms industry was the direct beneficiary of these developments, as it backed the CPD’s preferred candidate, Ronald Reagan, in his 1980 bid to oust Carter from the White House. The weapons manufacturers ultimately over-reached during the Reagan years, leading to several high-profile scandals. These included the so-called 'spare parts' scandal that revealed charges of $600 for toilet seats and $3,000 for coffee pots, which were in fact just the symbols of an entire procurement system run amok." [7]

Weapons Procurement 1998-2003

In 1999, according to Foreign Policy in Focus, "the military-industrial complex did not fade away with the end of the cold war. It has simply reorganized itself."

"As a result of a rash of military-industry mergers encouraged and subsidized by the Clinton administration," it continues, "the Big Three weapons makers--Lockheed Martin Corporation, Boeing Corporation, and Raytheon Corporation--now receive among themselves over $30 billion per year in Pentagon contracts. This represents more than one out of every four dollars that the Defense Department doles out for everything from rifles to rockets." [8]

When this article was posted in 1999, the Clinton Administration five-year budget plan for the Pentagon called for a 50% increase in weapons procurement, which would be an increase from $44 billion per year to over $63 billion per year by 2003. Additionally, the arms industry launched "a concerted lobbying campaign aimed at increasing military spending and arms exports. These initiatives are driven by profit and pork barrel politics, not by an objective assessment of how best to defend the United States in the post-cold war period." [9]

The New Military-Industrial Complex

Writing for the March 2003 issue of Business2.0, Ian Mount, David H. Freedman, and Matthew Maier address what is now called the New military-industrial complex. As anyone who has been following the current war in Iraq is well aware, "the nature of the battle" is "unlike anything the world has ever known." Afghanistan, the writers say, "provided a glimpse of the latest generation of high-tech weaponry, but it was only a glimpse. A major assault by combined American forces will provide a full demonstration of the military's new doctrine of faster, lighter, smarter warfare -- combat in which cutting-edge technology becomes U.S. troops' deadliest weapon. The Pentagon calls this new doctrine RMA, for revolution in military affairs, and it's made possible not just by fresh thinking in the Pentagon but also by a subtle shift in the ranks of U.S. defense contractors. In building its new high-tech arsenal, the United States has also created a new military-industrial complex." [10]

"When it comes to military spending, the tradition of the iron triangleCongress, the Pentagon, and defense industries—joining to push costly weaponry is nothing new." In his speech, Eisenhower said that "The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." [11]

The Military-Industrial-Think Tank Complex

According to the January/February 2003 Multinational Monitor:

Each major element of the George Walker Bush administration's national security strategy -- from the doctrines of preemptive strikes and "regime change" in Iraq, to its aggressive nuclear posture and commitment to deploying a Star Wars-style missile defense system -- was developed and refined before the Bush administration took office, at corporate-backed conservative think tanks like the Center for Security Policy, the National Institute for Public Policy and the Project for a New American Century.
Unilateralist ideologues formerly affiliated with these think tanks, along with the 32 major administration appointees who are former executives with, consultants for, or significant shareholders of top Defense contractors, are driving U.S. foreign and military policy.
The arms lobby is exerting more influence over policymaking than at any time since President Dwight D. Eisenhower first warned of the dangers of the military-industrial complex over 40 years ago.
It is not just industry-backed think tanks that have infiltrated the administration. Former executives, consultants or shareholders of top U.S. defense companies pervade the Bush national security team.
Exploiting the fears following 9/11, and impervious to budgetary constraints imposed on virtually every other form of federal spending, the ideologue-industry nexus is driving the United States to war in Iraq and a permanently aggressive war-fighting posture that will simultaneously starve other government programs and make the world a much more dangerous place.
The overarching concern of the ideologues and the arms industry is to increase military spending. On this score, they have been tremendously successful. In its two years in office, the Bush administration has sought more than $150 billion in new military spending, the vast majority of which has been approved by Congress with few questions asked. Spending on national defense is nearing $400 billion for fiscal year (FY) 2003, up from $329 billion when Bush took office.

Top Ten Companies 2002

Quotes

"Down the long lane of the history yet to be written America knows that this world of ours, ever growing smaller, must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.

"Such a confederation must be one of equals. The weakest must come to the conference table with the same confidence as do we, protected as we are by our moral, economic, and military strength. That table, though scarred by many past frustrations, cannot be abandoned for the certain agony of the battlefield."—Eisenhower, Farewell Address, 17 January 1961.

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