During the early days of the Cold War, the United States had a public and private weapons sector that consumed resources equivalent to 3-4% of gross domestic product. President Eisenhower referred to the industry and its supporters in government as the “military-industrial complex,” hinting that they might exercise undue influence over federal priorities. Perhaps he was right. However, today the military-industrial complex consumes barely 1% of GDP; its role in the economic and political life of the nation has shrunk correspondingly. The fiscal 2017 budget agreement that Congress reached last week provided $197 billion for development and procurement of military equipment, which is only a third of the $593 billion defense budget. The defense budget in turn represents only 14% of all federal spending, and 3% of GDP. Thus it appears the industrial colossus that Eisenhower labeled the “military-industrial complex” has largely disappeared, an artifact of an era now passed into history. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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