This evening I come to you with a message of leave-taking and farewell, and to share a
few final thoughts with you, my countrymen….
We now stand ten years past the midpoint of a century that has witnessed four major
wars among great nations-three of these involved our own country.
Despite these holocausts America is today the strongest, the most influential, and most
productive nation in the world. Understandably proud of this preeminence, we yet realize
that America’s leadership and prestige depend, not merely upon our unmatched material
progress, riches, and military strength, but on how we use our power in the interests of
world peace and human betterment.
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be
mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk
his own destruction.
Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my
predecessors in peacetime-or, indeed, by the fighting men of World War II or Korea. Until
the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American
makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can
no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense.
We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.
Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the
defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net
income of all United States corporations.
Now, 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 state house, 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.
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.