President Eisenhower Warns of ‘Military-Industrial Complex’
On Tuesday evening, Jan. 17, 1961, President Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower gave his final televised speech when he delivered his farewell address to the nation. The 70-year-old 34th president of the United States was preparing to turn things over to his successor, the 43-year-old John F. Kennedy. Before leaving office, however, there were a few warnings Eisenhower wanted to deliver to his fellow Americans.
With his military background, no one was surprised when Eisenhower warned the nation to keep up its guard against the threat of communism. After all, he had been a five-star general in the U.S. Army, supreme commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, and the first supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). When he assumed the presidency on Jan. 20, 1953, Eisenhower did not hesitate to use the threat of the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal to end the Korean War.
But what this old soldier was most proud of, he told the nation in his farewell address, was that during his eight-year presidency he had kept the peace and not involved America in another war. During these peaceful years he had watched with increasing concern a growing threat to America’s security and prosperity, and now he wanted to leave office with one final warning to his country.
That final warning was not about any external threat to America, although with the communist powers China and the U.S.S.R. he was keenly aware of such threats. No, the final warning was about an internal threat, a message perhaps surprising coming from a military man: “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” With the defense budget being a controversial and hotly debated topic in the news today, Eisenhower’s warning seems as timely as ever.
The following two articles are about Eisenhower’s farewell address and his leaving office. The first article highlights his warning about the growing influence of the defense industry. The second article, an editorial, praises the peaceful transition between administrations, and also highlights Eisenhower’s concern about the “military-industrial complex.”
This copyrighted article was published by the Dallas Morning News (Dallas, Texas) on the front page of its Jan. 18, 1961, issue:
Ike Fears Immense Military
By Felix Belair Jr.
Copyright 1961 New York Times News Service
Washington—President Eisenhower cautioned the nation Tuesday night to be vigilant against dangers to its liberties implicit in a vast military establishment and a permanent armaments industry unparalleled in peacetime.
In a farewell address from the White House that rang down the curtain on 50 years of public service, the President also warned of a second threat: “the prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by federal employment, project allocations and the power of money.” He said this danger was “ever present and is gravely to be regarded.”
Eisenhower spoke to the people as an old soldier preparing to turn over the burdens of the presidency to his much younger successor, President-elect John F. Kennedy. The two men will hold their second and final discussion of problems confronting the nation Wednesday morning.
Foremost among these he listed the continuing Communist threat to the free world and the need to combat it while striving for universal disarmament. It was “with a definite sense of disappointment” that he contemplated the failure to make greater progress toward a lasting peace.
He said that with all Americans, “I wish the new President and all who will labor with him Godspeed” in working for solutions.
The President’s greatest emphasis seemed to be on his warning:
“The acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”
This copyrighted editorial was published by the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) on Jan. 19, 1961:
Changing of the Guard
President Eisenhower held his last White House press conference yesterday. His final message, the economic report, has gone to Congress. His farewell address to the American people was delivered Tuesday evening. This morning he has another meeting with President-elect Kennedy. In a few hours he will be a private citizen for the first time since he entered West Point 50 years ago.
The President’s farewell address was brief, but covered a lot of ground. He wished the new President Godspeed. He expressed his belief that the United States today is the strongest, most influential and most productive nation in the world.
He warned that the free world faces a hostile ideology, the danger from which promises to be of indefinite duration. At stake is our liberty. In meeting this crisis we must guard against being dominated by a military-industrial complex. We must also be sure that educational institutions and public policy do not become the captive of scientific-technological supermen. And in carrying on the struggle for survival, we must not mortgage the future for the present.
Mr. Eisenhower is deeply disappointed that he is leaving office with a lasting peace still not in sight, but he believes the fact that we have avoided war in the past eight years is the greatest achievement of his administration.
Tomorrow noon the transition of power from one political party to another will be a historic occasion. Such a transition has taken place only four times previously in this century—when Wilson succeeded Taft in 1913, when Harding succeeded Wilson in 1921, when Roosevelt succeeded Hoover in 1933 and when Eisenhower succeeded Truman in 1953. On none of those occasions were world affairs in such a critical state as they are now.
The fact that this changing of the guard will be made peaceably, in an orderly manner and with good will on the part of all concerned is something we can all be proud of. It is one of the characteristics of our form of self-government which distinguishes it from dictatorship and insures its perpetuation. In contrast, there are still many nations which adhere to the outward forms of democracy but which are unable to effect a change in government without an accompaniment of shooting, rioting and banishment or liquidation of the opposition leaders.
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