NSA

Why We Should All Like Ike: He Predicted the Godawful World in Which We Live

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Dwight Eisenhower is an underrated president, especially when it comes to understanding the ways in which national security issues often provide cover for violations of basic liberties and fiscal sanity.

Over at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey reposts Ike's most memorable presidential speech—his farewell address where he warns against the "military-industrial complex":

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted.

That speech is strong stuff—and a reminder than presidents didn't always speak in gaseous platitudes.

Morrissey, who also writes for The Week, notes that today's "threat is the intelligence-industrial complex, and the manner in which we had already surrendered to it before the NSA took advantage of the complacency."

Read his bit here.

And over at The Daily Beast, John Avlon notes that Ike was skewered as "a conspiracy theorist" for suggesting that the military-industrial complex might some day screw everythin up. But here we are, in an era where the public and private spheres mingle promiscuously and expensively:

There 1,931 private companies working on counterterrorism, homeland security, and intelligence. Throughout the D.C. area, 33 buildings containing 17 million square feet of office space have been built since 9/11—the equivalent of 22 Capitol buildings. But despite the growth of government national-security workers, some 500,000 private contractors also have top security clearances.

This might be defensible if private contractors actually saved taxpayer dollars, but they don't. According to a 2008 study by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, contractors made up 29 percent of intelligence agency workforce but cost the equivalent of 49 percent of personnel budgets. Consider the fact that Snowden made $122,000 a year in his brief Hawaii-based gig for Booz Allen Hamilton, offering evident tech savvy but only a GED. The average annual salary for a person with a GED is only $37,200. This isn't an industry interested in belt-tightening.

Read the whole thing.

I don't have a problem with contracting stuff out, even for and including defense. But it sure makes my blood boil to realize the ways in which so many military contractors and their towel boys in Congress waste the taxpayers' money. This sort of dynamic without proper accountability is godawful and it'd be nice to see more than a handful of politicians of either party denounce it and reform it.

Watch "Why We Still Like Ike: Dwight Eisenhower's Underrated Presidency":

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  1. This might be defensible if private contractors actually saved taxpayer dollars, but they don’t. According to a 2008 study by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, contractors made up 29 percent of intelligence agency workforce but cost the equivalent of 49 percent of personnel budgets.

    Market failure! Market failure! These same lunatics want to privatize social security investment and the healthcare/insurance complex!

    1. According to a 2008 study by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, contractors made up 29 percent of intelligence agency workforce but cost the equivalent of 49 percent of personnel budgets.

      And cost the government zero in pension and healthcare in future budgets. All of their costs are on the current budget, which is what makes them attractive.

      1. Yeah. But remember all of the collective whining from the government contractor employees when “sequestration” started? They already feel entitled to working on the public teat, and they vote.

  2. I’ve come to notice that most of the people that like to cite Eisenhower’s farewell address seem to have not read the entire thing. He basically said that the military-industrial complex was necessary and inevitable, but only that the country should tread carefully:

    “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence ? economic, political, even spiritual ? is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. WE RECOGNIZE THE IMPERATIVE NEED FOR THIS DEVELOPMENT. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.”

    Basically, I’m sure I could dig up a few speeches from John McCain that more or less say the same thing.

    1. All that means is that Eisenhower wasn’t a paleocon commie loving nut and understood the cold war had to be fought. He recognized reality. That doesn’t take away from the credit he deserves for understanding the dangers of that new reality.

      1. It wasn’t just a statement about the Cold War. By that point, it was taken for granted that the federal government would have to take a larger and larger role in the the economy. Nixon could have said “we’re all Keynesians now, two decades earlier.

        1. So what? This was 1959, before Friedman. Basically you are saying we should ignore Eisenhower because he wasn’t 10 years ahead in his economic thinking.

          1. No, actually I’m saying the opposite. I’m pointing out to the people who like to think Eisenhower was some libertarian dove to actually read the entirety of what he said in his most cited speech.

            1. Eisenhower was not a libertarian. But no President ever has been. But amazingly enough, some nonLibertarians manage to get a few things right.

            2. I don’t think anyone thinks Eisenhower was a libertarian or a dove. He was a professional warrior. And while one might dispute the necessity of the military industrial complex, he was probably right about its inevitability.

          2. That’s not it.

            Eisenhower was the CMIC’s waterboy, encouraged by Dewey (of Dewey Defeats Truman Fame) to butcher the Taft republicans and bury them in a shallow unmarked grave in the woods for wanting to go back to a policy of neutrality.

            Having destroyed the final bastion of organized opposition to the MIC, he warns about its dangers? Yay.

            1. by Dewey (of Dewey Defeats Truman Fame) to butcher the Taft republicans and bury them in a shallow unmarked grave in the woods for wanting to go back to a policy of neutrality.

              And the world owes him an incredible debt for that. Fuck the Taft Republicans commie loving bastards. After they could no longer defend and enable the Nazis, they moved on to doing the same for the Communists.

              1. no, john, fuck you. Once you start intervening “in the national interest”, there’s no stopping it, which is exactly how we got to where we are today.

                1. Sometimes life sucks neoliberal. The alternative was letting the entire rest of the world go communist. It was the best of bad options. And you will never convince me that more than a few of the Taft Republicans were not secretly at heart Nazis and then on the KGB payroll in the 1950s. Communism was an actual threat to our very existence. And the people left and right who excused it, enabled it, and tried to get us not to confront it were scum.

                  1. The alternative was letting the entire rest of the world go communist.

                    ROFL!

                    The commies were economically incapable of holding Russia, let alone Eastern Europe or Afghanistan.

                    The only place they hold out are on geographically isolated “islands” like Cuba or North Korea.

                    1. The only place they hold out are on geographically isolated “islands” like Cuba or North Korea.

                      And the US support to anti communist efforts all over the world for fifty years had nothing to do with that. Nope, they would have just died out on their own.

                      And hey, what is a few decades of mass murder and slavery if it all ends well. I mean look at Cambodia. It is no longer communist. Things turned out well there. What would have been the harm if the rest of the world and Western Europe had suffered the same fate.

                      The only people the Paleos loved to excuse and enable more than the Nazis and Commies were the slaveholders. God what a bunch of moral cowards.

                    2. So, this is the exact logic liberals use when they want a government program.

                      You say if I don’t support Big Intervention, it must be because I “excuse and enable” Nazis and Communists.

                      That’s shitty nonlogic and poor argumentation.

                      I don’t approve of the Rwandan genocide or the Assad regime, but that doesn’t mean I think the United States should be involved with it either.

                    3. The commies were economically incapable of holding Russia, let alone Eastern Europe or Afghanistan.

                      Whether intervention was necessary on the scale we practiced is one thing. But you seem to forget that at the end of the 70s, the conventional wisdom was that the USSR was on the ascendancy, or was at least here to stay.

                      The reason the US practiced the foreign policy that it did in the mid-20th century is because the USSR WAS IN FACT having a great deal of success establishing puppet regimes throughout the world. Would it have eventually “taken over the world” if left unchecked? Maybe, maybe not–but US leaders didn’t want to take that chance.

                      It’s easy to say with the benefit of hindsight, “Pfft, everyone knows the commies weren’t able to sustain their level of power!” At the time, though, no one really knew that they were basically the 20th century version of the Roman Empire ca. 400 AD, and they and other commie sympathizers were basically in denial about it all the way up until the winter of 1989.

          3. It was also 30 years after Coolidge’s successful Presidency and 15 years after “The Road to Serfdom” was published.

            Friedman didn’t invent conservative / libertarian economics, he just explained it better than anyone else.

            1. Few people had heard of Hayak in the late 1950s. And Coolidge was not considered a successful President in the 1950s. It was a different world

      2. He recognized reality… that was my first thought.

    2. “I’ve come to notice that most of the people that like to cite Eisenhower’s farewell address seem to have not read the entire thing”

      Indeed.

      In the same speech Eisenhower said this:

      “In this revolution, research has become central, it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

      Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

      The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present ? and is gravely to be regarded.

      Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present ? and is gravely to be regarded.”

    3. I’ve come to notice that most of the people that like to cite Eisenhower’s farewell address seem to have not read the entire thing.

      Everyone focuses so hard on the MIC part because it’s a key example of this larger point (plus, the fact that it became a nice meme for marxist academics in the late 1960s), but as you say, it shows they haven’t read it or deliberately ignored its meaning.

      The point of the farewell address is a warning against the limits of scale, the dangers of the unchecked growth of the government/managerial class and against blind faith in technological and administrative panaceas to solve problems.

  3. Basically, I’m sure I could dig up a few speeches from John McCain that more or less say the same thing.

    They’d sound a lot more senile than Ike.

  4. Everyone knows what Eisenhower said about the military industrial complex and many sagely nod their heads in time. What plenty of folks on the left would like to forget is how he described the coming subjugation of the academy in the same way through government grants and contracts in the arts and sciences.

    1. Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

      The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present ? and is gravely to be regarded.

      Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.
      The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present ? and is gravely to be regarded.

      It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system ? ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

      Yeah, ol Ike pretty much called it.

      1. It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system ? ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.

        Drop one word and you get the mantra of the GOP and the DNC.

        1. I would not say drop as much as substitute “controlled” in place of “free” – that sounds more like TEAM.

    2. “What plenty of folks on the left would like to forget is how he described the coming subjugation of the academy in the same way through government grants and contracts in the arts and sciences”

      The Universities are their playground. Of course they want to forget about it.

  5. Consider the fact that Snowden made $122,000 a year in his brief Hawaii-based gig for Booz Allen Hamilton, offering evident tech savvy but only a GED. The average annual salary for a person with a GED is only $37,200. This isn’t an industry interested in belt-tightening.

    I’m happy to believe that contractors are overpaid, but this is stupid.

    He could either do the work he was assigned or he couldn’t. The work he was assigned had a certain value or it didn’t. The GED means absolutely nothing.

    1. Yeah. The guy was a techie. To compare his salary to the average GED’s salary is like comparing the salary of an engineer or a nurse to the average salary of everyone with a college degree.

    2. Consider the fact that Snowden made $122,000 a year in his brief Hawaii-based gig for Booz Allen Hamilton, offering evident tech savvy but only a GED. The average annual salary for a person with a GED is only $37,200

      I was making $45/hr with a diploma and two years of unrelated college at one point before going back and getting my degree. Average is useless in analyzing individuals.

      1. How many GED’s can barely read and got their GED in prison?

      2. As Brett said my best friend’s college roommate’s aunt made $35560 a month working at home from her computer!

        Find out more at http://www.pyramid-scheme.com

        1. But does that aunt have a GED?

    3. Precisely. In tech work, no one gives a shit what degree you have or if you have one at all. Let’s see your experience. That’s all that matters.

      A tech person getting paid $122,000 is so normal in the tech world that it doesn’t even raise an eyebrow.

      1. Especially if you do a COLA adjustment on Hawaii, that’s about $70k in regular pay.

      2. And remember, he was an employee of Booze Hamilton not the government. If they could have hired him or someone like him for less, they would have. Its not like the government cared what they paid him.

        1. “Booze Hamilton”

          I like it better spelled that way.

      3. And don’t forget he had to let the feds look up his ass to get a security clearance. How many qualified tech guys can get a job in the private sector and avoid that or even if they wanted the job have done something that prevents them from getting a clearance? The need for a TS clearance reduces the pool of qualified applicants and thus raises the cost of hiring someone.

      4. “Precisely. In tech work, no one gives a shit what degree you have or if you have one at all. Let’s see your experience. That’s all that matters.”

        I wouldn’t say no one, it does happen but it is rare.

        I had one company, a big aerospace company nonetheless (ATK, the same guys who made the Space Shuttle boosters) that hired me as a contractor to design build a complex test automation framework but refused to bring me on fulltime for the far easier task of maintaining said framework simply because I didn’t have a degree but I agree as a general rule in the IT world they do not care a damn about your education or background, they care if you can write the code and if you are an asshole or not.

        1. Is being an asshole a help or hindrance? It’s hard to tell, judging from the programmers I work with.

          1. If being an asshole were a hindrance, Episiarch would not be a programer, which I think he is.

          2. It’s sort of a requirement, if I and my co-workers are any guide.

            1. That’s kind of what I thought. Though in my experience they seem to be about evenly divided between too socially awkward and introverted to be an asshole and absolute flaming dickheads.

          3. Actually the answer somewhat depends, in some places they prefer that you be an asshole, in other places not so much but either way they are going to have an opinion on the issue

          4. Is being an asshole a help or hindrance?

            Its not so much being an asshole as having to be ruthless about chasing the logic. One of the reason there are so many coders here is that computers don’t give a shit how you feel about them. If you aren’t prepared to tell people that what they’ve told you just far is a big pile of mush that cannot be converted into logic, you’d better get into hardware administration.

    4. The fact that they keep bringing up his GED shows how butthurt they are that someone who didn’t even have a high-school diploma outflanked and embarrased an Ivy League-educated “constitutional scholar” and the rest of the over-educated clever sillies in the administration.

  6. “Consider the fact that Snowden made $122,000 a year in his brief Hawaii-based gig for Booz Allen Hamilton, offering evident tech savvy but only a GED. The average annual salary for a person with a GED is only $37,200.”

    While I agree with every other criticism of the NSA this one continues to astound me. Conflating someone with “just a GED” who is also capable of being a successful sysadmin with your average person with a GED is idiocy. He was not being paid for his credentials he was being paid for his skills and presuming that he was able to even be a moderately successful IT pro his salary was on no way shape or form unusual, out of line, or unexpected. As private sector employees with similar skills, education, and experience doing the same job he would make essentially that same salary without having to go through the hassle of acquiring a security clearance.

    Paying someone like Snowdon $120k a year might not be saving the NSA money but the salary is hardly unusual or excessive.

    The real question however is not what Snowdon was making but what Booz Allen was billing the NSA for his services, it is entirely possible that they were in fact screwing over the government by billing $250 + an hour for someone who was only being paid $90 an hour (total compensation cost, not just salary), on the flip side if they were billing $120 – $130 an hour for him then they were right in line with what it would have cost the government to hire someone like him as an FTE.

  7. Consider the fact that Snowden made $122,000 a year in his brief Hawaii-based gig for Booz Allen Hamilton, offering evident tech savvy but only a GED. The average annual salary for a person with a GED is only $37,200. This isn’t an industry interested in belt-tightening

    I honestly think there is some serious envy in these journalists that get pissy about his lack of ed-ma-cation. How dare this schmuck make more than them without going to college when they spent years getting credentials from the right school?

    1. I think you might be right. Remember, journalists have no marketable skills and know little or nothing about the subjects they cover. Credentials are all they have.

    2. Good point. How much do shitty reporters get paid, anyway? I seriously doubt it’s anything near $122,000. Look, this guy is actually smart and has valuable skills! How dare he get paid that much!

      1. You have a point. I don’t know a lot of professional people who are impressed with a $122K salary.

        1. In Hawaii.

    3. Yeah, it really grinds their gears that someone with a lack of “proper” education embarrassed their God-King.

  8. ontractors made up 29 percent of intelligence agency workforce but cost the equivalent of 49 percent of personnel budgets.

    Of course the contractors, in theory at least, come with various corporate assets at their disposal which an additional federal employee would not. So the better question to ask is, are you getting the necessary value for the additional monies paid?

    1. Not to mention that the emergence of the technology field and it’s high salaries has kinda screwed up the entire GS payscale and the government would literally not be able to hire any IT workers if they were forced to pay them all according to it

      1. Precisely. A good part of the reason for all the contracting is the limits put on direct hiring by the GS scale (and other byzantine federal personnel rules).

  9. These creditialed fuckers sure are jealous of this guys GED.

    Oh and it’s [US-ISRAEL-MILITARY-INDUSTRIAL-COMPLEX]

    /Herc

  10. Ike predicted it because he enabled it.

    1. I see everyone upthread beat me to it and in a much more detailed fashion.

      1. It sucks getting to the party late!

    2. He enabled it how? By not surrendering to the communists? If only he would have allowed the rest of the world to fall under Stalin and Mao’s boot, how much better off we would be today.

      1. John likes to act like there are only ever two choices when deciding anything.

        Ands then changes the argument when you point out how stupid that is.

  11. My son has “only” a GED, but he is an internet security specialist, making twice what I do as an accountant. He has the FBI on speed dial and has more than once stopped serious cyber attacks against his company. He went to college, but dropped out after a year of doing the professors’ work and correcting their outdated lectures for his classmates. Credentials really don’t mean a whole lot any more.

    1. Credentials really don’t mean a whole lot any more.

      Especially in fields which change and advance much faster than text books can be published.

  12. My son has “only” a GED, but he is an internet security specialist, making twice what I do as an accountant. He has the FBI on speed dial and has more than once stopped serious cyber attacks against his company. He went to college, but dropped out after a year of doing the professors’ work and correcting their outdated lectures for his classmates. Credentials really don’t mean a whole lot any more.

    1. Damned double click!!

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