Eisenhower’s Predictive Farewell Address

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In President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1961 farewell speech to the American public, the serviceman-turned-politician outlined a foreboding prediction for the then-burgeoning “military-industrial complex” (the composition of the the military, the legislative branch, and the commercial enterprises that manufacture products and provide services for the military), which also happened to come true.

Eisenhower served as a five-star general and the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in World War II, and orchestrated the famous 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy Beach in Nazi-occupied France. He was elected President in 1952 and served two terms, during the waning years of which he had grown increasingly concerned with the potential influence that private manufacturers of expeditionary products could gain on the nation’s military agenda.

Today it is clear that Eisenhower’s prediction was accurate. Not only do private companies have more control over defense funding allocation than military leaders, but since 2006 more government-funded private contractors have been present in occupied countries than military personnel.

In his speech, Eisenhower said, “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,” and that sentiment remains true over fifty years later. The inflation of the military-industrial complex has resulted in an influx of security, but our liberties are in danger of obsolescence.

However, if we as citizens remain “alert and knowledgeable” as Eisenhower suggests, then we as a nation have the potential to realign with “our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment.”

The military budget for fiscal year 2014 is over 620 billion dollars — four times the budget for all veteran services — much of which is appropriated to private companies by locally elected public officials. By actively partaking in the political process, and individually vetting candidates for public office to determine who will serve national interests, rather than those of certain private companies, it is possible to reverse the influence that these modern-day robber barons have had on congressional military tax-dollar spending.

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