MIC America Great Again?

Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction,” said President Dwight Eisenhower, in his televised farewell address on January 17, 1961. Gen. Eisenhower led the forces that took down Germany’s National Socialist regime and after two terms in office warding off the Soviet Union he also saw a domestic threat from “a permanent armament industry of vast proportions.” 

As the president told the nation, “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.” Sixty years after Eisenhower’s warning, the unwarranted influence of the military-industrial complex (MIC) still persists. 

According to Inside Defense, current Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was “with defense contractors Raytheon Technologies and Booz Allen Hamilton, as well as other companies he has worked for since leaving the military.” When confirmed as defense secretary, his payout from Raytheon, where he served on the board of directors, ranging between $750,000 and $1.7 million. As it turns out, Austin has plenty of company. 

Before serving President Trump as defense secretary, Mike Esper worked a Raytheon executive. Gen. Jim Mattis, Trump’s first defense secretary, was previously a board member of General Dynamics. Acting defense secretary Pat Shanahan previously worked as an executive with Boeing. 

Joe Biden cited Lloyd Austin’s “intimate knowledge of the Department of Defense and our government,” qualities that make him “uniquely matched to the challenges and crises we face.” Outside of government, Dan Spinelli of Mother Jones noted, “those qualities were also uniquely matched to a post-military career spent cultivating ties between people in power and the defense industry.” Last year, Raytheon received more than $16 billion in federal government contracts, the fourth-most of any company. 

What is good for Raytheon in particular, and the MIC in general, does not necessarily make the United States more secure. President Eisenhower, who passed away in 1969, was on to something. 

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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