MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If you are free from November 29 to December 1, you can attend the "Future Ground Combat Vehicles: Delivering Cutting Edge Solutions for Mechanized Modernization" in Detroit. It's being run by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement, which profits from putting on military-industrial conference "trade" shows that focus on weaponry and combat paraphernalia. However, it won't be cheap: The cost for "vendors, consultants and solution providers" is $2,160 for a three-day all-access pass.
You're in luck, nevertheless, if you work for the military or government, because there is "no cost to all military and government employees" who wish to attend. This is generally the case in the invitations for such military and weapons-focused conferences. Why? Because the purpose is to attract vendors who are buying access to intermingle with current and past military personnel who might give corporations an edge on contracts. The military does nothing to discourage its staff from participating in such conferences. Why should it? After all, both sides of the military-industrial complex work together to expand the supply and demand for weaponry, combat gear and the infrastructure of state violence.
This year, the featured speaker at this conference is an Army commander, according to the conference brochure:
General Robert B. "Abe" Abrams assumed duties as the 22nd Commander of United States Army Forces Command, at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on 10 August 2015. As Commander of the United States Army's largest organization, he commands 229,000 active duty Soldiers, and provides training and readiness oversight of U.S. Army National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve units. In total, the Forces Command team includes 776,000 Soldiers and 96,000 Civilians. Prior to his current command, he was the Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense.
Abrams is accompanied by a plethora of active military officer faculty, a retired brigadier general from Israel and three corporate speakers. This abundance of senior and project manager military personnel ensures that vendors can make key contacts for future military projects.
In an invitation letter to potential attendees, the Director of Future Ground Combat Vehicles wrote:
This year Future Ground Combat Vehicles provides a unique platform that will allow both the military decision makers and the industry thought leaders to come together and devise innovative solutions for the NGCV [Next-Generation Combat Vehicles] and GCV [Ground Combat Vehicles] modernization strategy. We are excited to be part of the solution by facilitating meaningful and fruitful relations that will enhance the capabilities of our forces. We expect 2017 will be the biggest and most successful Future Ground Combat Vehicles conference so far and we cannot wait to meet you there!
Notice how the director of the conference emphasizes a collaborative effort between the industry and the military in coming up with new capabilities for what are known as Next-Generation Combat Vehicles. It is in little-noted conclaves such as this conference, occurring regularly throughout the year, that the hand-in-glove relationship between the Pentagon and the defense industry is revealed. Of course, the convention industry is just one manifestation of this tight relationship, but it is a telling one.
Conferences further cohere corporations and the military as a united, formidable force. It is at these meetings that they develop the relationships and ideas to "justify" the allocation of new defense spending.
Of course, such gatherings reaffirm President Eisenhower's final speech from the White House in 1961, in which he warned,
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.
NPR notes of Eisenhower's comments,
…In the speech, Eisenhower also spoke as someone who had seen the horror and lingering sadness of war, saying that "we must learn how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose."
Another concern, [Pentagon reporter Tom] Bowman says, was the possibility that as the military and the arms industry gained power, they would be a threat to democracy, with civilians losing control of the military-industrial complex.
As the US military extends its hegemony around the world, Eisenhower's ominous warning appears truer and truer each year. Although a three-day conference in Michigan may appear to be an insignificant event, it represents much more. It symbolizes how the military-industrial complex has become symbiotic and pervasive.