A State Within a State: What Is the Military-Industrial Complex?

A State Within a State: What Is the Military-Industrial Complex?

For where your treasure is,
there will your heart be also.

—Matthew 6:21

The military-industrial complex today commands power far beyond the measure it knew when President Eisenhower warned in his Farewell Address of 1961 against its “unwarranted influence.”

Its clout at the end of the sixties could be measured by a few figures. Americans were spending an annual average of $400 each on “defense.” The military was receiving half of each federal tax dollar (excluding the costs of past wars) and more than half the funds spent in the nation on research. Then 5 million men and women were serving in the armed forces and as civilian employees of the Pentagon, and 4 million were working in defense industries, with millions more economically dependent upon them. The Defense Department deployed 339 lobbyists on Capitol Hill and more than 6,000 public relations men in the U.S. and abroad. Between the end of World War II and 1969, a total of 1 trillion dollars was spent on the military—a major part during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

This massive investment not only purchased the most destructive military machine in history; it also animated an institution new to American life, the military-industrial complex. The complex is a web of political and economic relationships among defense industries and associations, the military and civilian leadership in the Pentagon, the Atomic Energy Commission, that part of Congress which deals with the interests of the military, some labor unions, universities, “think tanks” heavily dependent upon military expenditures, and the organizations of veterans, reservists, and superpatriots which define their role of promoting “peace through [armed] strength.”