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The Iron Triangle. The Political Influence of the Military. I. The Cold War and Permanent Defense. Strong military is institutionalized – becomes interest group vying for government funds. 1. Defense Spending Since 1940. 2. USA vs. Everyone Else.

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The Iron Triangle

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the iron triangle

The Iron Triangle

The Political Influence of the Military

i the cold war and permanent defense
I. The Cold War and Permanent Defense
  • Strong military is institutionalized – becomes interest group vying for government funds
2 usa vs everyone else
2. USA vs. Everyone Else

USA: $586.25 billion in FY 2007 ($666 b in 2008)

China Russia Japan UK France Italy India Israel Iran North Korea

Germany S. Arabia S. Korea Syria

Next 50

0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500 550

dhs spending
DHS Spending

2006 2007 2008 2009

b military resistance to nuclear warfighting lnos
B. Military resistance to nuclear warfighting: LNOs
  • Problem: US nuclear war plan (SIOP) had no contingency calling for less than a few hundred nuclear weapons
  • Eisenhower demands revisions to allow use of single weapons for political purposes (limited retaliation, response to conventional war)
  • So does Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Reagan….yet SIOP never updated to include LNOs
c 1986 goldwater nichols
C. 1986: Goldwater-Nichols
  • Origins:
    • Failed/difficult joint operations of 1970s-1980s = Congressional pressure for interservice unity
    • Joint Chiefs of Staff (commanders of the services) oppose reorganization
    • Nearly five years of lobbying and horse-trading follow
  • Key provision for our purposes: Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff established as central military advisor to President
  • Effects
    • Notable reduction in inter-service rivalry
    • Military now speaks with one voice – more difficult for civilians to oppose
ii the military learns to play politics a military opposition to clinton
II. The Military Learns to Play Politics A. Military Opposition to Clinton
  • Origins
    • Characteristics of the President: avoided Vietnam service, did drugs, expressed “loathing” for military service in 1969 letter, protested Vietnam War
    • Increasing partisanship in military (probably due to end of conscription) – military shifted Republican from 1970s-1990s (to about 2:1 in general, up to 9:1 among elite officers)
d the gays in the military controversy
d. The “Gays in the Military” Controversy
  • Clinton promises to allow openly gay people to serve in the US Armed forces
  • Widespread military opposition prevents policy implementation
    • Colin Powell (Chairman of JCS) denounces policy in Congressional hearings
    • Two Marine officers publish editorial in Washington Post warning that unless JCS keeps ban, it risks “losing the loyalty of junior officers.” Notes that a soldier “swears allegiance to the Constitution, not to the Commander-in-Chief”
    • Congress responds to military lobbying by codifying ban as law, preventing future Presidents from overturning it
2 symptoms repeated insubordination
2. Symptoms: Repeated insubordination
  • Clinton’s first visit to aircraft carrier marked by open mockery to reporters by both enlisted personnel and officers
  • Air Force Major Gen. Harold Campbell forced to resign after he called President Clinton a "gay-loving, draft-dodging, pot-smoking, womanizing“ Commander-in-Chief
  • JCS openly opposes policies of Defense Secretary Les Aspin in 1993  repeated leaks to press by military officers  Clinton forces Aspin to resign
  • Air Force chief of staff retires early (unprecedented), criticizes Clinton
b military criticism of rumsfeld
B. Military Criticism of Rumsfeld
  • Rumsfeld tries to implement “Revolution in Military Affairs” – services oppose cuts in weapons systems
  • Rumsfeld attacks generals who insist occupation of Iraq will require more than 100,000 troops
  • Retired generals begin to criticize Rumsfeld
    • Democrats find many to sign anti-Rumsfeld statements
    • Republicans respond with pro-Rumsfeld generals of their own
    • Note: Civilian parties are competing for the “endorsement” of the military!
c procurement the iron triangle
C. Procurement: The “Iron Triangle”

Congress, the Pentagon, and Defense Contractors

2 contracts and congress
2. Contracts and Congress
  • Pentagon and defense contractors spread sub-contract work to key districts/states
  • Programs often use many more contractors/locations than required, inflating costs (but maximizing political survivability)
4 example the f 22 raptor
4. Example: The F-22 Raptor

a. Overview

  • Planned during Cold War to defeat future Soviet fighters
  • Estimated cost: $68 billion for 750 fighters (initial estimate)  now down to 339 fighters – at the same price
  • 1999: House tries to kill F-22
    • All six members of JCS publicly condemn decision
    • Congress discovers F-22 has 1000 subcontractors in 42 states!
d outcome f 22 preserved
d. Outcome: F-22 Preserved
  • Clinton threatens to veto cuts to F-22
  • House-Senate conference removes provision
e long term decade required to kill the program
e. Long-Term: Decade required to kill the program
  • Rumsfeld fails to kill it (Congress refuses to cut it)
    • 2006: GAO recommends against further spending
    • F-22 still in FY2007 budget, despite repeated criticism by Rumsfeld
    • $65 billion now buys only 183 planes
ii gates succeeds after years of preparation
ii. Gates succeeds – after years of preparation
  • Gates takes office, avoids adversarial relationship with military (unlike Rumsfeld, he suggests no radical changes)
  • June 2008: Gates uses nuclear weapons screw-ups as excuse to fire Air Force Secretary and Chief of Staff (both vocal supporters of the F-22)
  • 2009: Gates announces plan to kill the F-22
    • Proposes speeding development of F-35 (also built by Lockheed)
    • New top Air Force officials write an editorial in favor of killing the program – even though they earlier supported it!
  • Lockheed fears losing the new funds, so backs off from lobbying for F-22. CEO: “I embrace Secretary Gates’s call to put the interests of the United States first — above the interests of agencies, services and contractors — and I will support him in every way.”
  • Representatives find it hard to mobilize voters without support of Lockheed – pro-F-22 forces are outvoted.
5 more examples fy2006 budget
5. More examples: FY2006 Budget
  • Secretary of Navy proposes building new destroyer in one shipyard instead of two in MS and ME (saves $300 million)
    • MS, ME Senators place “hold” on Secretary’s promotion to deputy defense secretary
    • ME Senator attaches rider to defense bill in Armed Services Committee prohibiting consolidation of production
  • Rumsfeld suggests cutting major conventional systems for 5th year in a row -- effort is unsuccessful. Services propose cutting personnel to pay for new systems (the “Washington Monument ploy”)
6 does the iron triangle threaten civilian control
6. Does the Iron Triangle threaten civilian control?
  • Executive control decreased: Evidence includes Carter’s naval strategy and resistance to Clinton/Rumsfeld
  • Congressional control increased: Unhappy commanders lobby Congress to undo DoD decisions
  • Isn’t this what Johnson wants – a move away from executive branch dominance?
d conclusions
D. Conclusions
  • Military has become politicized
    • Permanent standing army is large enough to be economically important
    • Military (especially officers) have generally become more partisan (with possible recent decline)
    • Military has learned to protect interests within political system (organized lobbying)
  • Tradition of deference has changed: imagine generals publicly criticizing Lend-Lease or Truman’s integration of the Army