Admiral La Rocque Leaves Legacy of Challenging the Military-Industrial Complex

Admiral Gene La Rocque
Admiral Eugene Robert La Rocque, 1918 - 2016

Former Center for Defense Information (CDI) President and co-founder Admiral Gene La Rocque U.S. Navy (ret.) passed away on October 31 at the age of 98. He was an extraordinary visionary and the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) couldn’t be prouder to carry on his legacy.

Admiral La Rocque joined the Navy in 1940 and served in the Pacific throughout World War II. He participated in thirteen major naval battles for which he received several medals and citations. He rose to become one of the top strategic planners for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his work there. He was ultimately passed over for further promotion, however, after he turned in a critical assessment the Vietnam War.

Admiral La Rocque founded CDI with Rear Admiral Eugene Carroll in 1971 because he thought the public needed informed and independent information about the operations of the Pentagon. They took no money from defense contractors or the government, and became a powerful alternative found to a Pentagon pushing self-serving data and analysis to decision-makers and the public.

At the time, CDI’s three primary goals were to avert a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, end the war in Vietnam, and monitor the influence of the military-industrial complex. Through the Defense Monitor newsletter and the weekly TV show America’s Defense Monitor, CDI offered fact-based research and policy advice about how our country would be much safer with a smaller defense budget and fewer nuclear weapons.

We have many opportunities to create jobs here in America by focusing our efforts in pursuing peaceful and nonmilitary goals. I am very pleased that CDI is undertaking efforts to counter the military-industrial complex. -Admiral Gene La Rocque

CDI’s work wasn’t always popular, and Admiral La Rocque’s criticism earned him a spot on President Nixon’s enemies list. In 1983, more than 500 retired admirals took out a full-page advertisement in the Washington Times condemning CDI and Admiral La Rocque after he spoke about the Reagan administration’s military buildup. Afterward, he extended to each of them an invitation to chat over coffee and a subscription to the Defense Monitor.

“It may be that the phones in my office are tapped,” he told the New Yorker in a 1986 profile. “I sincerely hope they are. I’m very anxious to get everything we know to the White House and to Congress, even if it has to be done through wiretaps.”

Admiral La Rocque’s vision and influence are enduring. Last year we reestablished our Military Advisory Board to further our work of challenging those who seek to misuse taxpayer dollars in the name of national security.  We also continue to publish the Defense Monitor as a compendium of analysis exposing excessive and wasteful Pentagon spending, and work with citizens and political allies to counter the defense industry’s corrosive influence in the Pentagon and Congress.

In prepared remarks last fall, Admiral La Rocque emphasized the continued need to challenge this growing influence. “[T]he military-industrial complex is not designed to create jobs. It is simply to defend the United States,” he said. “We have many opportunities to create jobs here in America by focusing our efforts in pursuing peaceful and nonmilitary goals. I am very pleased that CDI is undertaking efforts to counter the military-industrial complex.”

Over the past several days we’ve received an outpouring of notes and letters from individuals inspired by Admiral La Rocque’s leadership to dedicate their own lives to countering the military-industrial complex’s influence.  We are proud to continue his work and appreciate your support of our efforts.

If you want to  learn more about Admiral La Rocque and his work be sure to read his obituaries in the New York Times and the Washington Post.

Photograph of Mandy Smithberger

By: Mandy Smithberger, Director, CDI Straus Military Reform Project

Mandy Smithberger is the Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information at the Project On Government Oversight.

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