The Pentagon, looking northeast with the Potomac River and Washington Monument in the distance


In his Farewell Address on January 17, 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower expressed his concerns regarding the unprecedented scale of military and industrial influence over society:

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

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.[1]


At the close of his presidency Eisenhower relayed to the public what he had seen develop throughout his two terms of this new unwarranted influence. However, on April 27, 1946, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, chief of staff of the Army, issued a “Memorandum for Directors and Chiefs of War Department General and Special Staff Divisions and Bureaus and the Commanding Generals of the Major Commands” on the subject of “Scientific and Technological Resources as Military Assets.” As John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney write in “Surveillance Capitalism”:

Seymour Melman later referred to this memo as the founding document of what President Eisenhower—in his famous January 17, 1961 farewell address to the nation—was to call the “military-industrial complex.” In this memo General Eisenhower emphasized that a close, continuing contractual relationship be set up between the military and civilian scientists, technologists, industry, and the universities. “The future security of the nation,” he wrote, “demands that all those civilian resources which by conversion or redirection constitute our main support in time of emergency be associated closely with the activities of the Army in time of peace.” This required an enormous expansion of the national security system, bringing civilian scientists, industry, and contractors within this expanding and secretive arm of government. “Proper employment of this [civilian] talent requires that the [given] civilian agency shall have the benefit of our estimates of future military problems and shall work closely with Plans and the Research Development authorities. A most effective procedure is the letting of contracts for aid in planning. The use of such a procedure will greatly enhance the validity of our planning as well as ensure sounder strategic equipment programs.” Eisenhower insisted that scientists should be given the greatest possible freedom to conduct research but under conditions increasingly framed by the “fundamental problems” of the military.

A crucial aspect of this plan, Eisenhower explained, was for the military state to be able to absorb large parts of the industrial and technological capacity of the nation in times of national emergency, so that they become “organic parts of our military structure…. The degree of cooperation with science and industry achieved during the recent [Second World] war should by no means be considered the ultimate;” rather, the relationship should expand. “It is our duty,” he wrote, “to support broad research programs in educational institutions, in industry, and in whatever field might be of importance to the Army. Close integration of military and civilian resources will not only directly benefit the Army, but indirectly contribute to the nation’s security.” Eisenhower therefore called for “the utmost integration of civilian and military resources and…securing the most effective unified direction of our research and development activities”—an integration that he said was already “being consolidated in a separate section on the highest War Department level.”[2]

Eisenhower’s emphasis in 1946 on an organic integration of the military with civilian science, technology, and industry within a larger interactive network was not so much opposed to, as complementary with, the vision of a warfare economy, based on military Keynesianism, emanating from the Truman administration. The Employment Act of 1946 created the Council of Economic Advisers charged with presenting an annual report on the economy and organizing the White House’s economic growth policy. The first chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers was Edwin Nourse, famous for his role in the 1934 publication of the Brookings Institution study, America’s Capacity to Produce, which pointed to the problem of market saturation and excess productive capacity in the U.S. economy. The vice chairman was Leon Keyserling, who was to emerge as the foremost proponent of military Keynesianism in the United States. In 1949 Nourse stepped down and Keyserling replaced him. Meanwhile, the National Security Council was created with the passage of the National Security Act of 1947[3] (which also created the CIA). Together, the Council of Economic Advisors and the National Security Council were to construct the foundation of the U.S. warfare state. Truman formed the ultra-shadowy National Security Agency (NSA) in 1952 as an arm of the military charged with conducting clandestine electronic monitoring of potential foreign (and domestic) subversive activities.[4]

As President, Eisenhower witnessed the increasing reach of military spending and its influence on all sectors of the U.S. economy. It is more accurate to extend the term military-industrial complex to include a third sector — intelligence — into its name given the extent to which military operations require the data provided by military and civilian intelligence entities making up the United States Intelligence Community. These include, but are not limited to:

  • the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI),
  • US Army Military Intelligence Corps (MIC),
  • Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM),
  • the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA),
  • the National Security Agency (NSA),
  • the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),
  • the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),
  • the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO),
  • and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

Within Eisenhower’s 1961 Farewell statement, the assumption was implied of the necessity of creating “a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.” More than a half-century later, we are the inheritors of this acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial-intelligence complex. This segment of the Hidden History Center includes reference materials to inform visitors about this complex that forms the heart of United States society.

  1. See The Farewell Address set of files online available at the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas. See Also He Told You So: President Eisenhower’s Military-Industrial Complex Speech – 55 Years Later, Ike’s Scary Warning Looms Larger Than Ever, The WhoWhatWhy Team, January 17, 2016 []
  2. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, “Memorandum for Directors and Chiefs of War Department General and Special Staff Divisions and Bureaus and the Commanding Generals of the Major Commands; Subject: Scientific and Technological Resources as Military Assets,” April 1946. Published as Appendix A in Seymour Melman, Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War (New York: McGraw Hill, 1971), 231-34. []
  3. See overview of the National Security Act of 1947 from U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian. See Also: complete text of the law.[]
  4. Surveillance Capitalism – Monopoly-Finance Capital, the Military-Industrial Complex, and the Digital Age,” by John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney, Monthly Review, 2014, Volume 66, Issue 03 (July-August)[]