As American students return for another semester at universities around America, Opinione thought it would be an excellent time to discuss how the Pentagon’s influence in higher education has contributed to the militarization of American society and perpetual wars waged by a callous and inept political establishment. Although the average American is not even aware of the power and influence of the larger military industrial complex, most Americans would be shocked to learn how much money the Pentagon contributes to America’s research universities and Ivy League Schools. Known as the “Golden Triangle”, a group of military agencies, the high technology industry, and research universities, the military academic complex is influencing the bright young minds in America to develop the next generation aerial drone, stealth destroyer, and other items related to death and destruction.
In his book, The Complex- How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, Nick Turse devotes an entire chapter to the military-academic complex. In the book, Nick Turse explains how the origins of the military academic complex or the “Golden Triangle” as historian Stuart W. Leslie later identified it as, can be traced back to the 1940s when education institutions received the bulk of Pentagon funding for carrying out weapons development. Referencing the historian Roger Geiger, the author informs the reader that during the war years, the six largest Pentagon funded research programs were from academic institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Columbia University, the University of California at Berkeley, and John Hopkins University. All six of these academic institutions received an average of $ 10 million each. Twenty years after the end of World War II and a result of the arms race, MIT was ranked as the 54th among U.S. defense contractors and its prime military contracts totaled over $ 100 million. By 2005 that figure had grown to over $ 600 million dollars of DoD money, moving the Massachusetts of Technology to 44th place among defense contractors.
This monetary and politically influence of all that Pentagon money was not lost on the democratic senator J. William Fulbright from Arkansas, who was one of the first American politicians to bring public attention to the “Golden Triangle”. This insightful leader warned, that “in lending itself too much to the purposes to government, a university fails its higher purpose”. Even an MIT physicist Alvin Weinberg sarcastically commented, “that it was becoming difficult to figure if MIT was a university connected to a multitude of research laboratories, or a cluster of government research laboratories with a very good educational institution attached to it.”
As Nick Turse writes in his book,
“The Pentagon has both the money and the muscle to alter the landscape of higher education, manipulate research agendas, to change the course of curricula, and to force schools to play by its rules.”This point is driven home when the author details the amount of DoD research money in certain academic fields and the amount of universities who conduct Pentagon funding research. Citing the Association of American Universities (AAU) 2002 report, nearly 350 American academic institutions conduct Pentagon funded research. This makes the Department of Defense the third largest contributor of federal money to American universities, preceded only by the National Institutes of Health and the National Sciences Foundation.
Further increasing the Pentagon’s influence in American higher education is the proportion of DoD money in certain academic fields. Electrical engineering for example gets over 60 percent of its funding from the Pentagon, while computer science gets 55 percent of its entire funding from the Pentagon. This allows the Pentagon to dictate what sort of research is conducted, as well as what types of research is not conducted.
Like a silent cancer ravaging the body, the little known financial influence of the Pentagon is influencing where Research and Development (R and D) resources are spent and destroying America from within. Instead of focusing the intellect of America’s world class universities towards developing innovative technologies that could help more Americans get back to work and have the country build things again, like non fossil fuel based mass transit systems, the Golden Triangle of the military-academic complex is only contributing to the continual decline of America.