Military-Industrial Complex is an unofficial phrase used to signify the "comfortable" relationship that can develop between government entities (namely defense) and defense-minded manufacturers/organizations. This union can produce obvious benefits for both sides - warplanners receiving the tools necessary for waging war (while also furthering political interests abroad) while defense companies become the recipients of lucrative multi-million or multi-billion dollar deals.
"War for profit" is not an exclusive approach for modern times as it drove the best and worst of old Europe for many decades - perhaps best exemplified by the naval arms race seen between France, Spain and Britain. The driving force behind these initiatives was generally in out-doing a potential foe and, therefore, forcing the establishment of a large standing military force to counter the moves of the potential enemy. The modern interpretation of this, as it relates to the Military-Industrial Complex, is only slightly altered in that the established military force is now utilized to further global interests - the enemy is no longer another nation per se but any organization not in line with presented ideals.
At any rate, the theory of a mutually beneficial relationship existing between warplanners and industry is not unfounded for there is much money to be made in the design and development process of military goods which precede lucrative production commitments. As such, a defense contractor can be the recipient of multiple contracts during the lifespan of a single product leading many of the top firms to find ways to consistently outdo competitors in an attempt to maintain their own respective bottom lines in the boardroom and appease shareholders.
The phrase Military-Industrial Complex was first used in an American report at the turn of the 20th Century and later immortalized by outgoing United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower during his January 17, 1961 farewell address to the nation. In his speech, Eisenhower cited the "Military-Industrial Complex" as a grave warning to the American people based on his experiences of an unlimited wartime economy coupled with a political environment as witnessed during, and after, World War 2 (1939-1945) - the warning being to not let the military-industrial establishment dictate America's actions at home or abroad for such unchecked power would begin to usurp the inherent freedoms found in the very fabric of our nation. The original usage appeared as Military-Industrial Congressional Complex but this was later - rather ironically - revised to exclude its reference to the American Congress.
Since October of 2006, MilitaryIndustrialComplex.com has existed to keep a running tally of those American defense contracts (at least those publicly revealed by the United States Department of Defense) in an attempt to keep an accurate value of defense expenditures for the interested reader. Despite the rather apparent transparency, the listed contracts do not necessarily represent the entire breadth of U.S. defense spending for not all might be publicly announced/presented. Our database can, however, be used to present a basic outline and, perhaps, be utilized in predicting the next great American conflict or educating the average American in the direction of his/her government.