Book Review The U.S. Navy and the Origins of the Military-Industrial Complex, 1847-1883 by Dr. Kurt Hackemer

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Mar 16, 2016

  • Author(s) or editor(s) first and last name(s) / Dr. Kurt Hackemer
  • Title of book / The U.S. Navy and the Origins of the Military-Industrial Complex, 1847-1883
  • Year of publication / Copyright 2001
  • Place of publication / Annapolis, MD
  • Publisher / Naval Institute Press
  • Number of pages / 181
  • Price / Hard Cover from $5.48 currently on Amazon
  • ISBN / 1-55750-333-8
1. The Navy Confronts New Technology, 1847-1854
2. The Merrimack Class Frigates: Learning to Manage New Technology, 1854-1856
3. Expanding the Fleet: Shallow-Draft Sloops, 1857-1860
4. The Union and Ironclad Warships, 1861
5. Confronting Reality: The Problems of Wartime Construction, 1861-1862
6. Refining the Naval-Industrial Relationship: The Civil War Years
7. Applying the Lessons of the Past: To the New Steel Navy, 1865-1883
8. Conclusion

Ma'ams / Sirs - Although the term 'Military-Industrial Complex' has at times taken on a negative if not downright sinister connotations, this book investigates the beginnings of long-term relationships between commercial maritime concerns and the Department of the Navy. It starts with the US Navy beginning to modernize her fleet while confronting the challenges brought about by recent technological advances. It covers how these new developments were to be written into contracts as requirements. How the expectations, (some realistic - some not), from these developments should be incorporated when tested and proven to be up to spec. War era time limits that were unrealistic given the pressures put on an embryonic mechanical industrial infrastructure. End products rushed into service before operational trials could even be started. How those undiscovered deficiencies were then passed onto follow-on designs before corrected. Manpower restrictions caused by scarcity of skilled mechanics and machinists. Lack of excess production capacity for plates and armor. Issues caused by the ambiguity of wording and unclear definitions between builders and the end-user. Disagreements between different and/or competing depts of the USN. Requirement differences between the Navy administration and her field commanders. Successes and failures of different design proposals.

The book covers a multitude of trials and tribulations as the USN goes through the growing pains of dealing with commercial enterprises - and they with the US Government.

This volume investigates a process that has been studied and written about in-depth for other time periods, (especially Cold War era), but no other that I know of for the above years. It covers the evolution of the expanding USN's connection, and burgeoning reliance upon, the escalating abilities of American commercial industrial power.

Why is this of concern to students of the American Civil War? The vessels acquired during the early time-frame of this book gave service during the ACW. The contracts let, for good or for ill, matured into the procurement system that was used during the tremendous build-up of naval assets during the war. Aspects of this system carried over post-war and some to this day.

The 15 page bibliography is extensive, listing many primary sources, (and books I now need to search for...). Chapter Notes are at the end of the book.

This volume greatly increased my knowledge ACW naval weapons design, contracting, procurement, and assessment.

Warning and Caution - This is NOT an action book of battles. Operational damage and defects are used to demonstrate how they influenced the follow-on procurement, contracting, and testing process.

This book is listed in @Mark F. Jenkins naval bibliography posted here -

About the author;
Dr. Kurt Hackemer is a professor of 19th century American history at the University of South Dakota. He received his doctorate in 1994 from Texas A&M. He has had numerous articles published in The Historian, Naval War College Review, Journal of Military and Political Sociology, and Military History of the West.