Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Barry Goldwater, Defense of the Military-Industrial Complex Speech, 1969

Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, Republican presidential candidate in 1964, was the foremost leader of the conservative political forces in his party during the 1960s. The fiercely anti-communist Goldwater lost by a landslide to Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, in part because American voters feared that he was too bellicose and could not be trusted to handle nuclear weapons responsibly enough to avoid World War Three.  Goldwater nonetheless retained considerable support from conservatives in the Republican Party, many of whom felt that the United States had been insufficiently aggressive in prosecuting the Vietnam War.   In 1969 Goldwater returned to the senate, where he remained for the next eighteen years, serving on the Armed Services Committee.  Three months after his return Goldwater, a politician who deplored the half-hearted manner in which he believed American troops were fighting the Vietnam war, and would gladly have removed all restrictions on United States bombing of North Vietnam, delivered a speech defending the military-industrial complex. He justified and even celebrated its existence with the argument that the worldwide responsibilities of the United States made a large defense industry essential. Goldwater's only caveat was that the United States government had not gone far enough in developing the military-industrial complex.  He was a strong critic of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and his Ôwhiz kid' management team of technocrats, who he believed had mishandled the Vietnam War over the previous eight years, cut back projected military programs on budgetary grounds, and shown insufficient deference to military leaders.  Goldwater's views epitomized the right-wing beliefs in a strong defense that were temporarily shelved by Republicans during President Richard Nixon's time in office, but nonetheless became ever more influential during the 1970s.  By the late 1970s conservatives such as future president Ronald Reagan felt bold enough to attack the policies of détente with the Soviet Union orchestrated by Nixon, his successor President Gerald R. Ford, and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, and under President Jimmy Carter successfully blocked Senate ratification of the second Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT-II).  Under President Ronald Reagan, who shared many of Goldwater's staunchly anti-communist views, in the 1980s the United States once again mounted a massive defense build-up, which Goldwater supported from his senate base.
 
Mr. President:
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and as a member of the Senate Preparedness Subcommittee, I am greatly interested in the growing preoccupation of some groups and individuals these days with the so-called military-industrial complex in the United States. Indeed, if I were a psychologist, I might be tempted to the conclusion that the left wing in American politics has developed a "complex over a complex."

Judging from the view expressed by many of our public officials and commentators, the so-called military-industrial complex would seem to be responsible for almost all of the world's evils. Certainly a determined effort is under way to place at its doorstep almost full responsibility for the unfortunate war in Vietnam and the high cost of American defense.

We further find great attention being paid to the number of former military officers who have gone to work for defense-related industry. It has been shown with considerable flourish and head-shaking that some 2,000 former members of the United States Armed Services now are employed by companies that do business with the Defense Department. This revelation seemed to imply some kind of an unholy but non-specific alliance on the part of industry and one-time military officers to cheat and defraud the American taxpayer.

In presenting information on former military men employed by defense industries to the Senate on March 24, the gentleman from Wisconsin, Senator Proxmire, was careful to say that he was not charging any general wrongdoing on anybody's part and that he had found no evidence that any conspiracy exists. He seemed most concerned about a condition he described as "the old school tie" and the fact that many former high-ranking officers working in defense industry still retain personal friendships with some men still in the services. He accurately observed that "there is a continuing community of interest between the military, on one hand, and these industries on the other."

Now, Mr. President, I don't see how anyone could deny either the fact that friendships continue or that a community of interest exists between the military and the people who supply them with the tools of their trade.

Consequently, I am quite mystified to understand why this situation strikes the gentleman from Wisconsin as—and I use his exact words—"most dangerous and shocking." I am sure that the gentleman would agree that former members of Congress now working for industries that do business with the United States Government still retain friendships with present members of the House and Senate. I am also sure that he would agree that former government officials now employed by companies doing business with the government retain "old school tie" relationships with friends they made while in the government and with friends still working in the government. This situation even exists, I believe, with some officials who once worked for government regulatory agencies and now are employed by industries which are being regulated. But apparently the critics of the military-industrial complex do not find situations like this shocking or dangerous.

Mr. President, perhaps the "old school tie" is more binding if it happens to the Khaki-colored type worn by military men. Critics of the military seem to think so.

And in this connection I would like to point out that the figure of 2,000-plus retired military officers working for defense-related industries is impressive only when it is permitted to stand by itself and without the proper explanation. These 2,000 officers are employed by 100 of the largest corporations in the world. They are employed by industries which do many billions of dollars worth of business every year. And these 2,000 former military men are only a very small fraction of the tens of thousands of employees who work for these 100 industries. What's more, they represent only a small portion of the military officers who have been retired. I am informed by the Pentagon that the number of former military officers receiving retired pay as of June, 1968 totaled 232,892. I also discovered that since the end of World War II some 36,800 officers in the highest grades (colonels and above) have been retired. A total of 21,484 were retired between the years 1961 and 1968.

Mr. President, I believe these figures make it amply clear that high ranking military officers are not rushing into retirement at the beckoning of defense contractors.

Be that as it may, I believe it is long past the time when questions relating fundamentally to the defense of this nation should be placed in their proper perspective. Let us take the military-industrial complex and examine it closely. What it amounts to is that we have a big military establishment, and we have a big industrial plant which helps to supply that establishment. This apparently constitutes a "complex." If so, I certainly can find nothing to criticize but much to be thankful for in its existence. Ask yourselves, for example, why we have a large, expensive military establishment and why we have a large and capable defense industry. The answer is simply this: We have huge worldwide responsibilities. We face tremendous worldwide challenges. In short, we urgently require both a big defense establishment and a big industrial capacity. Both are essential to our safety and to the preservation of freedom in a world fraught with totalitarian aggression.

Merely because our huge responsibilities necessitate the existence of a military-industrial complex does not automatically make that complex something we must fear or feel ashamed of. You might consider where we would be in any negotiations which might be entered into with the Soviet Union if we did not have a big military backed by a big industrial complex to support our arguments. You might wonder how we could possibly pretend to be interested in the freedom of smaller nations if the only military-industrial complex in the world was possessed by Communist Russia or Communist China.

Mr. President, in many respects I am reminded of the problem which confronted our nation in the early days of World War II. The madman Hitler was running rampant. Freedom was being trampled throughout all of Europe. Suddenly the United States found itself forced to fill the role of the "arsenal of democracy." This nation had to start from scratch and finally out-produce the combined efforts of the Axis powers. And we had to do it quickly. The very existence of freedom in the world as we knew it in the early 1940's depended on it. And how did we perform this miracle? Well, I'll tell you that we performed it with the help of an industrial giant called and integrated steel industry. Although this industry and others like it performed miracles of production at a time when the chips were down all over the world, it still was the subject of long and harassing investigation after the war because of its "bigness." Incredible as it seems, the very size of an industry which enable us to defeat the Fascists armies and remain free became the reason for investigation by liberals in the Congress during the immediate postwar period.

We never, Mr. President, seem to understand that size is not necessarily an evil. When the Russian Sputnik went up, this nation was deeply concerned. And that concern had to do with our inability at that time to duplicate the Soviet feat. Now that we have the industrial capacity to equal the Russians in space or in matters related to defense, there seems to be a nationwide effort to make us feel guilty.

What would the critics of the military-industrial complex have us do? Would they have us ignore the fact that progress occurs in the field of national defense as well as in the field of social sciences? Do they want us to turn back the clock, disband our military establishment, and do away with our defense-related industrial capacity? Mr. President, do these critics of what they term a military-industrial complex really want us to default on our worldwide responsibilities, turn our backs on aggression and slavery and develop a national policy of selfish isolation?

Rather than deploring the existence of a military-industrial complex, I say we should thank heaven for it. That complex gives us our protective shield. It is the bubble under which our nation thrives and prospers. It is the armor which is unfortunately required in a world divided.

For all those who rant and rave about the military-industrial complex, I ask this question: What would you replace it with?

What is more, I believe it is fair to inquire whether the name presently applied is inclusive enough. Consider the large number of scientists who contributed all of the fundamental research necessary to develop and build nuclear weapons and other products of today's defense industries. Viewing this, shouldn't we call it the "scientific-military-industrial complex." By the same token, do not forget the amount of research that has gone on in our colleges and universities in support of our defense-related projects. Maybe we should call it an "educational-scientific-military-industrial complex." Then, of course, the vast financing that goes into this effort certainly makes the economic community an integral part of any such complex. Now we have a name that runs like this: "An economic-educational-scientific-military-industrial complex."

What we are talking about, Mr. President, is an undertaking which grew up from necessity. It is the product of American initiative, incentive and genius responding to a huge global challenge. It is perhaps the most effective and efficient complex ever built to fill a worldwide function. Its ultimate aim is peace in our time regardless of the aggressive, militaristic image which the left wing is attempting to give it.

Mr. President, I don't find the employment of military officers by 100 of the largest companies in this nation alarming or menacing. Many of those officers were technically trained to provide special services, many of which are required by the companies involved. And I hasten to point out that these same companies employ other free Americans, some of them former Senators, some of them former Congressmen, some of them former civilian employees of the government. It is my contention that a retired military officer is a private citizen. He has a right to seek employment wherever he can. It is only natural that he should look to sources of employment which involve matters he was trained to work in. The fact that he once was an Army officer and the company he works for does business with the Army does not automatically insure an undesirable relationship from the public viewpoint. I would like to say that anyone who has evidence of wrongdoing, of deliberate and unlawful favoritism in the dealings which involve defense industries and former military officers should come forth and make the circumstances clear. I say that anyone who has evidence that a conspiracy exists between the Pentagon on one hand and former military officers on the other should say so and produce evidence to back it up. I say that anyone who charges that a "military elite" is at work trying to turn the United States into an aggressive nation should stop dealing in generalities and come forward with names, specific dates, meeting place locations, and all the rest of the kind of data it takes to back up such a charge.

So far, Mr. President, I have yet to hear of any specific case of wrongdoing involving former military officers working for companies that do business with the Pentagon. In fact, I believe the record will show that the largest single cloud ever to hang over the so-called military-industrial complex stemmed from decisions made by civilian officers in the Department of Defense. I am, of course, speaking about the incredible circumstances surrounding the awarding of the largest defense contract in the history of the world to a company whose bid had been rejected by nearly all the military specialists and evaluation boards in the Pentagon. The contract was the multi-billion dollar TFX contract which former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, former Navy Secretary Fred Korth and former Undersecretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatrick jammed down the throats of the Navy and Air Force.

This was undoubtedly the costliest fumble in American history. It has never been properly dealt with and I suggest to those, especially those in this body, who are sincerely interested in the dangers of a military-industrial complex becoming too powerful in this nation that a full investigation be launched into all aspects of the TFX/F-111 fiasco. I would recommend that the activities of all present and former military and civilian officials involved in the awarding of the TFX contract be examined. I find it highly interesting, by the way, that one of those most directly involved in this questionable decision—Mr. Gilpatrick—is now part of the panel of experts being consulted by a member of the United States Senate in connection with his campaign to defeat the deployment of a missile defense in this country.

Mr. President, I hope I shall be fully understood in this respect. If there is wrongdoing, whether of a conflict of interest nature or something else, in our defense establishment I want it investigated and stopped and the guilty parties punished. And this goes for wrongdoing by anyone concerned, whether he be a military man, a former military man, a defense industry executive or a civilian officer of the government. I feel that this is our true concern. Maybe the hugeness of the system which we are now compelled to maintain does lend itself to improprieties. If so, let us concern ourselves with such improprieties and find means to deal with them legislatively. This is the constructive way to proceed. It does no good for us to gaze with awe on the tremendous increase in defense expenditures with which the McNamara Era saddled us and then pretend that denunciation of a military-industrial complex will somehow make it all right.

In the attacks on the military also you will find repeated reference to a speech once made by former President Eisenhower.

But I would remind you that when Dwight Eisenhower mentioned the possibility of unwarranted influence being acquired by such a complex, he had some other profound things to say. I want to quote one passage in particular. He said and I quote, "We face a hostile ideology—global in scope, atheistic in character, ruthless in purpose and insidious in method. Unhappily the danger it poses promises to be of indefinite duration. To meet it successfully, there is call for, not so much the emotional and transitory sacrifices of crisis, but rather those which enable us to carry forward steadily, surely, and without complaint the burdens of a prolonged and complex struggle—with liberty the stake. Only thus shall we remain, despite every provocation, on our charted course toward permanent peace and human betterment....

"A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction."

As I have pointed out, many of the problems that are being encountered in the area of national defense today stem not so much from a military-industrial complex as they do from the mistakes and miscalculations of a "civilian complex" or perhaps I should say a "civilian-computer-complex." My reference here, of course, is to the Pentagon hierarchy of young civilians (often referred to as the "whiz kids") which was erected during the McNamara era in the questionable name of "cost effectiveness." And this complex, Mr. President, was built in some measure to shut out the military voice in a large area of defense policy decision making.

I suggest that the military-industrial complex is not the all-powerful structure that our liberal friends would have us believe. Certainly nobody can deny that this combination took a drubbing at the hands of Mr. McNamara and his civilian cadres during the last eight years.

If the military-industrial complex had been as strong and as cohesive as its critics would have us believe, it is entirely possible this nation and its taxpayers would not today be facing the need for rebuilding the defense of freedom. I have already mentioned one example. The TFX decision which has proven to be such a costly fiasco was made by the civilian complex against the advice of experienced military men.

If the military-industrial complex had been the irresistible giant its critics describe, we would certainly today be better equipped. We would undoubtedly have a nuclear-powered Navy adequate to the challenge presented by the Soviet naval might. We would certainly have in the air—and not just on a drawing board—a manned, carry-on bomber. We would never have encountered the kind of shortages which cropped up in every area of the military as a result of the demands from Vietnam. There would have been no shortage of military helicopters. There would have been no shortage of trained helicopter pilots. There would have been no need to use outdated and faulty equipment. No concern ever would have arisen over whether our supply of bombs was sufficient to the task in Southeast Asia.

In conclusion, Mr. President, I want to point out that a very strong case can by made for the need for a more powerful military-industrial complex than we have had during the past eight years. At the very least, I wish to say that the employment practices of industries doing business with the Pentagon—practices which lead them to hire the most knowledgeable men to do their work—are no cause for shock. Nor are these practices dangerous to the American people.

I have great faith in the civilian leaders of our Government and of our military services. I have no desire to see the voice of the military become all-powerful or even dominant in our national affairs. But I do believe that the military viewpoint must always be heard in the highest councils of our Government in all matters directly affecting the protection and security of our nation.


Further Reading
Goldwater, Barry. Papers. Arizona Historical Foundation, Tempe, Arizona.
 

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