In his January 17, 1961, farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned that “in the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex” and “the disastrous rise of misplaced power.” Most American leaders have ignored his warning and have allowed the military-industrial juggernaut to influence crucial decisions in defense spending and foreign policy.
As a result, the United States spends $1 trillion annually on its military- and defense-related programs. This is equal to all other countries combined! It is five times as much as the world’s second-largest military spender, China. Military/defense spending constitutes 55% of our discretionary federal budget for 2015, while education spending is 6% and spending on scientific research is 3%. It costs taxpayers $250 billion annually to maintain 1,000 U.S military bases in 150 countries (out of the 195 countries on the planet). Additionally, the U.S. is the world’s number-one exporter of weapons.
The “military-industrial-congressional complex,” as it was called in a draft of Eisenhower’s speech, consists of the Pentagon, major defense contractors and powerful members of Congress funded by them. Between 2007 and 2012, according to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO.org), the top-five defense contractors (Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, General Dynamics and Northrop Grumman) spent $409.2 million on lobbying and campaign contributions to politicians. In return the corporations received “$629.8 billion in contracts and $480 million in other federal support.” This equals “$1,540 from the government for every dollar they spent influencing the government.” In addition, through a revolving door of sorts, many former high-ranking government officials and retired military brass become highly paid executives, board members or lobbyists for defense contractors.