Military–industrial complex, or military–industrial–congressional complex, is a concept commonly used to refer to policy and monetary relationships between legislators, national armed forces, and the military industrial base that supports them. These relationships include political contributions, political approval for military spending, lobbying to support bureaucracies, and oversight of the industry.
It is a type of iron triangle. The term is most often used in reference to the system behind the military of the United States, where it gained popularity after its use in the farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 17, 1961, though the term is applicable to any country with a similarly developed infrastructure.
The term is sometimes used more broadly to include the entire network of contracts and flows of money and resources among individuals as well as corporations and institutions of the defense contractors, The Pentagon, the Congress and executive branch. This sector is intrinsically prone to principal–agent problem, moral hazard, and rent seeking. Cases of political corruption have also surfaced with regularity. A parallel system is that of the Military–industrial–media complex, along with the more distant Politico-media complex and Prison–industrial complex.
A similar thesis was originally expressed by Daniel Guérin, in his 1936 book Fascism and Big Business, about the fascist government support to heavy industry. It can be defined as, “an informal and changing coalition of groups with vested psychological, moral, and material interests in the continuous development and maintenance of high levels of weaponry, in preservation of colonial markets and in military-strategic conceptions of internal affairs.” An exhibit of the trend was made in Franz Leopold Neumann’s book Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism in 1942, a study of how Nazism came into a position of power in a democratic state.