One of President Eisenhower's most famous speeches concerned a warning that the military-industrial complex should be watched at all times, or it would take the country for a ride. What Ike failed to foresee was a time when the military and industrial complexes would be competing with each other for the same personnel. As more and more contracts are handed out for the latest hardware, the industrial chaps are draining all the brains from the military establishment.
Here is how the military brain-drain works. Rudolph Heffenberg, an engineer with Armageddon Electronics, supplier of all digital dials on the new "Jaws" class nuclear submarine, goes out on a shakedown cruise with the crew of the USS Snail Darter. He is in charge of instructing Chief Petty Officer Rankowski on how to repair the dials at sea.
Rankowski, who has been trained at a cost to the taxpayers of $100,000, is a digital whiz, and can take one apart and put it back together with his eyes closed.
Heffenberg has been instructed by Armageddon to keep a lookout for any good men who can be used to complete their multimillion-dollar-cost-plus naval contract.
Over a cup of coffee, Heffenberg asks Rankowski how much he makes as a chief petty officer.
Rankowski says, "Fifteen hundred a week, and free membership in the country club of my choice. Rankowski, Armageddon Electronics needs men like you."
"So does the Navy," Rankowski says.
"But we need you more," Heffenberg says quietly. "The only way we can catch up with the Russians is to build super submarines. And without digital instruments, they are worthless."
"Yeh, but who is going to repair the digitals once you people turn them over to the Navy?"
"That's not your problem, Rankowski. If you love the Navy as much as you seem to, then it's your duty to see that our fighting men get the best equipment that money can buy. You can't do that when you're at sea."
"I don't know. I have 15 years in the service and I sort of like what I'm doing."
"What about your family, Rankowski? How do you feel about you being on a sub all the time? Wouldn't they prefer to have you home every night eating steak and drinking good Scotch, and watching Monday night football?"
"My wife has mentioned it at times, but I still think I owe something to the Navy."
"We all owe something to the Navy. It isn't as if you're leaving it. All you're doing is making it possible for those who are actively serving in it to have the equipment they need to keep this country No. 1. Forget the $50,000 a year you'll probably be making in no time. If it was just money, I would say stay where you are. But I'm appealing to your patriotism. We can't do the job the Navy wants us to do unless we have the manpower to make their digitals. You don't look like the type of person who would shirk his responsibility."
"I don't know. I believe I should talk it over with the CO."
You do that, Rankowski. I'm sure he will tell you that I am right."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because as soon as he finishes his tour, he's coming with us as a vice president."
"Yes. And so is the executive officer, the engineering officer and the helmsman."
"Wow! You really made a clean sweep."
"You're the only holdout. If Armageddon can get a few more good men like you, the U.S. will have the best damn Navy in the world."