TheMilitary-IndustrialComplex

TheMilitary-IndustrialComplex - Gerald D Nash The Federal...

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Gerald D. Nash, The Federal Landscape: An Economic History of the Twentieth-Century West (1999). B erhaps the most striking addition to the federal land- _ , scape in the West during the second half of the twen- tieth century was the military-industrial complex that came to play a dominant role in the region's economy. Military installations had been important in the frontier West as well, of course. During the nineteenth century, army forts and navy shipyards had served as major stimuli to economic growth in sparsely populated areas. Their importance did not diminish in the four decades before World War II, when a succession of new naval installations on the Pacific . cpas.t, as well as airfields there and inland, came to dot many :;:'^es»ecn states. The economic importance of these installa- : :. : ti6n's:was profound. i|e Military-lndustria Upomplex in the Cold II War, 1945-1960
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78 But there was a very important contrast between the prewar and post- war periods. Before 1945 the United States had never supported a large standing military establishment in peacetime. Americans had fought their wars and then demobilized as quickly as possible. But in the era of the cold war, the nation maintained very large standing military forces. And when American foreign policy after 1941 became increasingly concerned with the Pacific rim, and America became enmeshed in vicious wars in Korea and Vietnam, military installations rapidly proliferated in the western states as they had not done in earlier periods. The size and scale of the new federal establishments were unprecedented. Congress poured more than $100 billion into western installations between 1945 and 1973, in addition to the large amounts it was already expending for dams, highways, and other components of the economic infrastructure. Unlike earlier installations, this new military complex was spread far and wide over the landscape. It included large military bases, supply depots, and shipyards maintained by the army, navy, and air force. These bases were important economic assets not only in heavily populated states like California but also in smaller western communities in Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and the Dakotas. In some years the bases were the most important contributors to their respective states' incomes. After 1945 the federal government established major science research centers in California, Washington, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, and other western states. The military-industrial complex also spread its influence through the myriad contracts signed with tens of thousands of business firms throughout the West. More than in previous years, federal con- tracts also reached into universities, which became an important arm of the complex. As James Killian, the first presidential science adviser (for President Eisenhower), wrote nostalgically of the 1950s, there was an "enlightened spirit of partnership between Defense and the universities.
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