Military-Industrial Complexity

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Last month I spent a couple of days in Washington DC, mostly in a conference room called Eisenhower – with his pictures and speeches covering the walls. In his farewell address in 1961, president Eisenhower warned the US about the increasing power of the ‘military-industrial complex’, referring to the close relation of the armed forces and the industry producing weapons and other materials for them. The said speech did not make it to these walls, perhaps because our kind host happened to be the National Defense Industry Association (NDIA).

Eisenhower, a five-star general, was a distinguished soldier-turned-politician, and continues to be greatly admired by the US general public, industry and current politicians alike. His achievements include the establishment of the Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA), a unique group of engineers and scientists who among other innovations created ARPANET – the precursor of the Internet. This blog text has been transported to you by TCP/IP, the ARPANET protocol almost unchanged from 1969 to this day.

President Eisenhower’s concern was very valid, as the complex evolved quickly after the second world war and was initially lacking the checks and balances structure typical for American administration. When you have companies making profit from weapons, war becomes lucrative business and individual company goals might become detrimental to the nation as a whole.

The close cooperation of the military and industrial companies is naturally not exclusive to the US. Here in Finland, companies like Nokia gained unmatched expertise in radio technologies as it supplied to and in 1981 acquired Televa, a company the ministry of defence had organized in 1945 to research tactical radio technologies. Televa’s major developments include DX200, the iconic telephone exchange which later formed the basis for switched mobile networks. It is also not a coincidence that Nokia’s first portable phone Mobira Talkman closely resembles the LV217 ‘battalion’ military radio, still used for training. Most of us in the Finnish military reserve remember at least its weight.

I see that one of the hallmarks of a successful nation is a healthy, checks-and-balances relationship between the military and private companies. In Finland, this is greatly supported by the universal (only male, unfortunately still) conscription, which creates a natural framework for cooperation of different people and industries in form of mandatory and voluntary reserve exercises.

For me personally, the honor to serve in the Air Force back in the beginning of the 90s profoundly influenced my engineering thinking what comes to mission critical and sustainable systems, deep situational awareness and real time sensor data management. In today’s IoT world, these areas are more important than ever. I established BaseN proudly on these military shoulders.


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