Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Recalling Arlie House

Back in the 1970s I once attended an interesting conference at Arlie House, just west of Washington, DC. Arlie House is a prestigious conference center out in lovely Virginia countryside. All those making presentations were members of the defense and aerospace industry. All those attending were bureaucrats, leaders, and opinion-makers in urban renewal. The message of the Military-Industrial Complex might have been summed up thus: “We have built fantastic weapons system, atomic and conventional. We have lifted people to the moon and brought them safely back. All the things that we routinely do are at a level of complexity vastly greater than anything involved in urban renewal and development, social welfare distribution, roads and highways, or you name it. Ask us to help you. We’re willing and able.”

I listened in wonderment. The single thought that occurred to me might have been put like this: “There is a big difference between the urban chaos and material nature that you shape into weapons systems, rockets, and delivery systems. Material nature has no lobbies. You are supported by a single budget deployed in a line-management thrust. You never have to find matching funds. If every infantry company had to collect money from the soldiers, to contribute to battalion, the battalions sending dollars to divisions, the divisions to corps and army group—just to come up with a 25 percent matching share for those new tanks, there wouldn't be any—new tanks. You operate under a single will and in a political environment incapable of denying the military anything.”

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