Saturday, September 10, 2005

The Homeland Security Industrial Complex

I took a trip to Washington on Thursday and kept feeling like everywhere I looked, there was some new encroachment of Homeland Security enterprise into a new sphere. Advertisements on Metro platforms are a good example. I go to DC maybe a half dozen times a year, and I have never picked up that vibe before.

In his farewell address to the nation, President Eisenhower spoke of an emerging military-industrial complex and the threat it posed to liberty:

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 State 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 huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
Today, the buzzwords are homeland security rather than military, but the admonition should remain the same. As we have watched the problems unfold in the Gulf Coast this month, we have seen a large element of this bureaucracy failing in critical ways to do what it was intended to do. The usual response in Washington will be to make that bureaucracy larger, without necessarily making it smarter.

Maybe not this time. On my trip, I also had the chance to meet with some recent alumni of Dartmouth. It was encouraging to see some of these bright young people finding their way in this new field. But, in a broader sense, their choices illustrate another way to understand the costs of our current struggles--against natural and manmade threats--bright young people are being siphoned off into a field that protects existing assets, rather than building new ones.


Anonymous said...

Great Post!

Richard Schwartz said...

You make an important point, but I think you need to punch up the language just a bit. Drop the word "Homeland". Just talk about the "Security-Industrial Complex". It makes the same point and it resonates better with Ike's phrase.


Kent said...

There are considerable legal, political, and bureaucratic barriers to constructing new public works. There are no comparable legal, political, or bureaucratic barriers to preserving existing public works. Naturally, resources are going to flow from the former to the latter.

In other words, we have erected an incentive structure that favors decadence.

Roland Patrick said...

I think it more important not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. A simulation, 'Hurricane Pam', predicted 60,000 deaths if New Orleans flooded.

Ray Nagin and Mary Landrieu publicly said 10,000 will have died. 25,000 body bags were called for.

Death toll, so far is under 300.

Doesn't someone deserve some praise for saving thousands of lives?

Guambat Stew said...

Why is it that Ike's message keeps popping up these days?