Military Industrial Accountability: The Military Science Fiction Connection

While I enjoy reading military sci-fi, one of the tropes in it often concerns me – the idea that military budget cuts cannot come from a conscientious appreciation of a nation’s priorities, but necessarily have to come from a desire for politicians to build their personal empires.

This shows up in a lot of military science fiction I’ve read (it’s really aggressively painful in William R. Forstchen’s Wing Commander: Fleet Action), enough to qualify as a trope in its own right.

The idea that civilians have no place in deciding how money is spent on the military is beyond problematic. While there are some civilian-oriented boondoggles in military spending, to be sure (interference with base closures, and attempts to keep procurements going on unnecessary projects like the F136 fighter engine in order to bring money to prominent congressional representatives’ districts), there are plenty of military misappropriations and poorly-defined projects to go around (such as multiple abortive attempts at replacing the M16 rifle, the RAH-66 Comanche, the A-12 Avenger II, the botched procurement of the M2 Bradley and Stryker fighting vehicles, the CG-21 and DD-21 warship programs, the F/A-18 Hornet, the F-22 and F-35, I could go on all day…). Beyond this is the ridiculous idea that political empire-building is done by pushing money out of the military, into wasteful things like roads and schools (I wish I was joking, read the Weber/Zahn penned A Call to Duty for a pretty graphic example of this idea). Considering that most modern-day government empire building is done through lavish military pork projects, whereas we’re having a hard time scraping together the money to shore up America’s crumbling infrastructure, I find this to be a depressingly hollow joke.

There are other problematic things about military science fiction (like the way that most milSF authors treat warfare not as a thing to be devoutly avoided and to be engaged in only when you have no other option, but as entertainment), but this is one of the bigger ones. You can’t have the military answering to civilian authority and simultaneously have it completely independent of any form of financial oversight.

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