Perspective: What Would Eisenhower Think?

Jul 4, 2019

In his farewell address in 1961, President Eisenhower spoke about the danger of the growing defense industry and how it might influence the military. He coined a term -- military industrial complex -- to focus attention on this serious issue.

Fast forward 58 years to today. Patrick Shanahan recently resigned as acting defense secretary after a sordid family scandal became public. It was a story he had been hoping to keep secret from Congress during his upcoming hearing to become permanent defense secretary.

Awful as all that is, it’s not the worst thing about Shanahan. He was actually not qualified to be our defense secretary. He never served in the military or in any government position. He is a former Boeing executive, an elite member of the military industrial complex.

He will be gone, but his replacement is Mark Esper, until recently a lobbyist with Raytheon, a huge arms company that has government contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. What’s more, Esper will also serve in an acting capacity.

It’s a loophole the president has taken advantage of a number of times, because it allows him to circumvent the tiresome process of Congressional hearings. And in the absence of effective White House background checks, people with questionable morals or poor qualifications slide into important jobs.

So once again, we’ll have a defense secretary who won’t be adequately vetted and who may have a financial interest in the decisions he will be making. It’s Eisenhower’s worst nightmare.

I’m Deborah Booth and that’s my perspective.