Dwight Eisenhower on Homeland Security



1961: Permanent armaments industry has grave implications

In his farewell address to the nation in 1961, President Eisenhower said the following:

"We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. 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."

While Eisenhower's comments were made in the middle of the Cold War, we clearly did not heed his warnings, either then or later. Since that time, our military expenditures have steadily increased to the point where they are 54 percent of all discretionary federal funds.

Source: Healing the Soul of America, by Marianne Williamson, p.167 , Jul 24, 2018

1953 Domino Theory: one USSR takeover leads to more

Eisenhower traveled to Korea before he took office to help conclude the peace talks. By July 1953, an Armistice was signed that separated Korea into two with a demilitarized zone at the 38th parallel.

The Cold War was raging while Eisenhower was in office. He began building up nuclear weapons to protect America and to warn the Soviet Union that the U.S. would retaliate if fired upon. When Fidel Castro took power in Cuba and then began relations with the Soviet Union, Eisenhower placed an embargo on the country. He was concerned about the Soviet involvement in Vietnam. He came up with the Domino Theory where he said that if the Soviet Union could topple one regime (like Vietnam), it would find it easier and easier to topple further regimes. Therefore, he was the first to send advisors to the region. He also created the Eisenhower Doctrine where he asserted that America had the right to aid any country threatened by Communist aggression.

Source: AmericanHistory.About.com on Eisenhower Administration , May 27, 2016

1961: Be wary of the military-industrial complex

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications.... 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. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes....only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

-- President Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address to the nation, January 17, 1961.

Source: The Debt Bomb, by Sen. Tom Coburn, p.259 , Apr 17, 2012

Ended Korean War by practicing nuclear brinkmanship

Robert A. Taft was a powerful senator, the son of President William Howard Taft, and a strident noninterventionist. Taft championed limited government at home and even more limited government involvement abroad.

Unlike Richard Nixon, Senator Taft and older isolationists were skeptical of the Soviet threat and critical of the Truman administration's internationalist approach. But the debate within the Republican Party between isolationists and anti-Communists would be short-lived.

In 1952, Taft lost the GOP nomination to Dwight D. Eisenhower, who ended the Korean War by practicing nuclear brinkmanship against the Communist North. Eisenhower's party would remain strictly anti-Communist throughout the remained of the 1950s. The anti-Soviet fervor would eventually lead to Wisconsin senator Joe McCarthy's crusade against Communism.

Source: The Last Best Hope, by Joe Scarborough, p. 41-2 , Oct 5, 2010

1957: ban nuclear testing

In August 1957, President Eisenhower announced a proposal to ban the further testing of nuclear explosives, and faltering progress has been made since that time. While I was president, there were strict global limits on the testing of any explosive above 150 kilotons, which at that time was the smallest that could be monitored. Subsequently, it became technologically feasible to detect very small explosions, and a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was evolved. Although President Bill Clinton signed the treaty and pledged that it would not be violated, the most recent American budget refers, for the 1st time, to a list of possible US tests that would violate the treaty.
Source: Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter, p.142-143 , Sep 26, 2006

Ending draft takes undue chances with our nation's security

[My 1956 presidential opponent] Adlai Stevenson argued to end the draft. To set the record straight I released statements that summarized our position: I responded by saying that to call the draft "wasteful" under the conditions then prevailing evidenced either ignorance of our military needs or a willingness to take undue chances with our nation's security.
Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p. 18 , Jan 1, 1965

Cutting defense budget takes a needless gamble

I turned to the lion's share, the amount earmarked for the US's security, and spoke of the folly of gutting this part of the budget: "The national defense team is by far the largest in our budget, almost $40 billion. This does not, by any means, equal the full amount first recommended by our uniformed services. They wanted some $10 billion more."

"But I earnestly believe that this defense budget represents, in today's world, the proper dividing line between national danger on the one hand and excessive expenditure on the other. If it is materially cut, I believe the country would be taking a needless gamble."

"As we look at the whole range of the budget there is only one hope of making the really great savings that we all want so much. That hope is to achieve an effective disarmament agreement with an easing of world tensions, so that the enormous sums we have to spend for our defense can be drastically reduced."

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.131 , Jan 1, 1965

More defense spending doesn't necessarily increase security

Other persons recommended astronomical amounts of direct defense spending. Again and again I reiterated my philosophy on the defense budget: Excessive spending helps cause deficits, which cause inflation, which in turn cuts the amount of equipment and manpower the defense dollar can buy. The process is circular and self-defeating.

Every addition to defense expenditures does not automatically increase military security. Because security is based upon moral and economic, as well as purely military strength, a point can be reached at which additional funds for arms, far from bolstering security, weaken it.

But I also rejected advice which urged that I submit a balanced budget for the next fiscal year, no matter how impelling the reasons for additional expenditures.

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.217 , Jan 1, 1965

Permanent arms industry is new to the American experience

Until the latest of our world conflicts, the US had no armament industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now 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, 3 million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all US corporations.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.616 , Jan 1, 1965

Post-war disarmament is dangerous; keep peacetime military

An important program--especially since the Korean aggression--has been to sustain security forces fully adequate to counter any hostile move against us. This marked a sharp break with America's traditional policy. After each of our wars--down to and including WWII--our unilateral disarmament reached embarrassing and dangerous levels.

But when, in 1953, the Korean armistice was signed, our government embarked on a new program of peacetime military preparation, costly, it is true, but in my opinion, in view of the world situation, decidedly necessary. No free nation can disregard the persistently announced purpose of the Communist imperialists to dominate the globe.

Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.622 , Jan 1, 1965

1960: Proposed limited nuclear test ban treaty

An effective ban on nuclear testing had become an essential preliminary to attaining any worthwhile disarmament agreement. In 1960, I announced that the US was presenting another limited test ban proposal designed to end, under assured controls:
  1. all nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere
  2. all nuclear weapons tests in the oceans
  3. all nuclear weapons tests in those regions in space where effective controls can now be agreed to
  4. and all nuclear weapons tests beneath the surface of the earth which can be monitored.
The Soviet Union expressed its willingness to conclude a treaty halting all nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere, the oceans, and cosmic space, and all underground tests, and to agree to the US proposal for the carrying out of a program or research and experimentation among the US, UK, and USSR with all parties to the treaty undertaking at the same time an obligation not to conduct any nuclear weapons tests. [These negotiations collapsed, however], until 1963.
Source: Waging Peace, by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower, p.480 , Jan 1, 1965

Safety through strength, but lay foundations of real peace

[The US should] ensure our safety through strength. We now have a broadly based and efficient defensive strength, including a great deterrent power, which is, for the present, our main guarantee against war; but, unless we act wisely and promptly, we could lose that capacity to deter attack or defend ourselves.

My profoundest conviction is that the American people will say, as one man: No matter what the exertions or sacrifices, we shall maintain that necessary strength!

But we could make no more tragic mistake than merely to concentrate on military strength. For if we did only this, the future would hold nothing for the world but an Age of Terror. We must never become so preoccupied with our desire for military strength that we neglect those areas of economic development, trade, diplomacy, education, ideas and principles where the foundations of real peace must be laid.

The threat to our safety, and to the hope of a peaceful world, can be simply stated. It is communist imperialism.

Source: Pres. Eisenhower's 1958 State of the Union message , Jan 9, 1958

Ferret out and to destroy Communist subversion at home

In our aggressive attack on subversion at home, we have, in the past two years, made excellent progress. FBI investigations have been powerfully reinforced by a new Internal Security Division in the Department of Justice; the security activities of the Immigration and Naturalization Service have been revitalized; an improved and strengthened security system is in effect throughout the government; the Department of Justice and the FBI have been armed with effective new legal weapons.

We shall continue to ferret out and to destroy Communist subversion.

We shall, in the process, carefully preserve our traditions and the basic rights of our citizens.

Our civil defense program is also a key element in the protection of our country. We are developing cooperative methods with State Governors, Mayors, and voluntary citizen groups, as well as among Federal agencies, in building the civil defense organization.

Source: Pres. Eisenhower's 1955 State of the Union message , Jan 6, 1955

Supply states for civil defense preparedness

While retaliatory power is one strong deterrent to a would-be aggressor, another powerful deterrent is defensive power. No enemy is likely to attempt an attack foredoomed to failure. Because the building of a completely impenetrable defense against attack is still not possible, total defensive strength must include civil defense preparedness. Because we have incontrovertible evidence that Soviet Russia possesses atomic weapons, this kind of protection becomes sheer necessity.

Civil defense responsibilities primarily belong to the State and local governments--recruiting, training, and organizing volunteers to meet any emergency. The immediate job of the Federal Government is to provide leadership, to supply technical guidance, and to continue to strengthen its civil defense stockpile of medical, engineering, and related supplies and equipment. This work must go forward without lag.

Source: Pres. Eisenhower's 1953 State of the Union message , Feb 2, 1953

  • Click here for definitions & background information on Homeland Security.
  • Click here for VoteMatch responses by Dwight Eisenhower.
  • Click here for AmericansElect.org quiz by Dwight Eisenhower.
Other past presidents on Homeland Security: Dwight Eisenhower on other issues:
Former Presidents:
Barack Obama(D,2009-2017)
George W. Bush(R,2001-2009)
Bill Clinton(D,1993-2001)
George Bush Sr.(R,1989-1993)
Ronald Reagan(R,1981-1989)
Jimmy Carter(D,1977-1981)
Gerald Ford(R,1974-1977)
Richard Nixon(R,1969-1974)
Lyndon Johnson(D,1963-1969)
John F. Kennedy(D,1961-1963)
Dwight Eisenhower(R,1953-1961)
Harry S Truman(D,1945-1953)

Past Vice Presidents:
V.P.Joseph Biden
V.P.Dick Cheney
V.P.Al Gore
V.P.Dan Quayle
Sen.Bob Dole

Political Parties:
Republican Party
Democratic Party
Libertarian Party
Green Party
Reform Party
Natural Law Party
Tea Party
Constitution Party
Civil Rights
Foreign Policy
Free Trade
Govt. Reform
Gun Control
Health Care
Homeland Security
Social Security
Tax Reform

Page last updated: Feb 22, 2022